What are the five main types of precipitation?

Precipitation is a form of water that falls from a cloud. Five main types of precipitation are rain, snow, hail, sleet, and freezing rain. Each of the five main forms of precipitation are briefly explained below.


Rain is in the form of liquid water. It is by far the most common form of precipitation.


Snow forms via sublimation. In other words, snow forms when water vapor turns directly into a solid state (ice) without first becoming a liquid.


Hail forms in cumulonimbus clouds. Ice crystals that begin to fall towards Earth’s surface are lifted by a gust of wind within the cloud. Thus, they are brought up higher into the cloud. As this occurs, the hail grows in size as it accumulates more moisture within the cloud. The blowing of a hail ball back up into the cloud can occur several times. Eventually, a hail ball becomes so large and heavy that it falls to Earth.


Sleet is a mixture of snow and rain. Sleet is formed when raindrops travel through a cold region of the atmosphere on their way down to Earth. This causes the raindrops to slightly freeze.

Freezing Rain

Freezing rain does not freeze on the way down to Earth. Rather, freezing rain freezes as soon as it hits an object on Earth.