Virga clouds

What happens when rain falls but doesn't reach the ground?

Virga, from the Latin for 'rod' or 'branch' are a trail of precipitation that fall from the underside of a cloud but evaporate or sublime before it can reach the earth's surface.

They appear as light wisps which are attached to the base of a cloud and are often at their most striking when lit by a red sunset with a light wind extending the tail into a angled curve, as in the picture below.

As a supplementary cloud feature, they occur most frequently with Cirrocumulus, Altocumulus, Altostratus, Nimbostratus, Stratocumulus, Cumulus and Cumulonimbus. Find out more about the different types of cloud in our cloud spotting guide.

Virga falling from Altocumulus by Bidgee

Last updated: 5 August 2014