Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Why is rain good for the Earth? Many people know it feeds our rivers and lakes and provides water to plants. But there are some hidden benefits of rainfall as well. Things you may not think about when you’re watching the gentle rainfall outside your window. So what are those benefits? Let's get into it.
Plants on land rely on the presence of rain to bring water to their roots and allow them to grow and photosynthesize. But rain is not just water. Rain forms when dust particles acquire moisture which builds and builds until it is too heavy to be held up but the updrafts of warm air rising from the earth’s surface. Once they begin to fall, the water tumbles through the atmosphere and all the particles within it, which includes nitrogen. The atmosphere is made of 78% nitrogen so it is hard to miss. By the time the rain has hit the ground it has dissolved nitrogen in it, which is fertilizer for plants. Another reason why plants grow so well after rain.
After the rain passes the plants and the roots near the surface, it keeps descending into the ground until it becomes part of the groundwater system. Groundwater is a hidden but vital resource in our lives. It provides almost 40% of the water for households and businesses and about 90% of the drinking water for rural populations. It also supplies streams and rivers with water creating habitats for countless plants and animals and they absorb excess water when needed. It is naturally purified so it is not necessary to disinfect it. We learn that rain turns into streams and rivers that lead to the ocean where the cycle renews again but about 10-20% of rainfall enters groundwater systems.
Water is vital for life on Earth. Scientists looking for life on other planets use that as one of the first qualifications when looking for extraterrestrial life. An underappreciated fact is that the presence of water is vital for life to exist on land. Rain acts as the transfer of water from the oceans to the land. This allows plants to form which provides food and shelter for animals to live, as well as all the other forms of life. Water’s importance for life on land is demonstrated by the different levels of biodiversity in moist climates such as rainforests versus dry climates such as deserts.
Rainfall is a beautiful part of the balance of nature. We not only rely on it for survival, but we also can admire it for its magnificence and power. It helps to transfer nitrogen from the air into the soil to fertilize our plants, it replenishes the groundwater systems that we humans and the environment depend on, and also transfers water from the ocean to the land allowing for terrestrial life to exist. A tiny raindrop makes a big impact on the Earth.