Virga is rain that doesn’t reach the ground

Virga: Rain falling but not reaching the ground.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Sandi Hryhor in Blairstown, New Jersey, caught this image of virga – rain that doesn’t reach the ground – with a phone, on March 26, 2022. Sandi wrote: “Taken at the Blairstown airport. It was completely overcast when we left our house 10 miles away, then some sun, then it hailed, and this sky greeted us when we arrived.” Thank you for sharing!

Rain that doesn’t reach the ground

Virga often appears in streaks or shafts extending from the bottoms of clouds. You often see virga over a desert, where low humidity and high temperatures can cause rain to evaporate shortly after being released by clouds. Or you might see virga at high altitudes; in fact, the precipitation often starts out in the form of ice crystals. Virga is commonly seen in the U.S. West and above the Canadian prairies, in the Middle East, Australia and North Africa. At some northerly latitudes, too – as in the photos from Sweden on this page – virga sometimes paints the sky above.

The word virga is derived from Latin meaning “twig” or “branch”.

It’s an especially dramatic sight at sunrise or sunset.

The photos on this page are from EarthSky friends. Enjoy, and share your pics with us on Facebook or at EarthSky Community Photos, where you can submit here.

Photos of virga from EarthSky’s community

Thin crescent moon, Venus, virga coming from a single stripe of cloud against dawn sky, over a mountain silhouette.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | The June 1, 2019 dawn sky – with a waning crescent moon and (to the moon’s left) the planet Venus – and with virga extending down from the clouds. Photo taken by Mike Lewinski. Those are the Sangre de Cristo mountains near Taos, New Mexico. Thanks, Mike!
Rainbow touching horizon, with melon-colored virga to one side.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Here’s an interesting one, a virga rainbow. Hazel Holby in Willows, California, captured this image on September 29, 2021. She wrote: “I was so surprised to see this rainbow in the rice fields close to sunset. There had been only a trace amount of rain in this part of northern California for months. Can you tell me how this rainbow managed to form? Thank you and love your site!” Thank you, Hazel! Les Cowley of the website Atmospheric Optics said: “This is a broad bow and also of variable width. These suggest that it was made by virga [rain that falls but doesn’t reach the ground] or other very small water droplets in the air. These would not necessarily be seen or felt as rain. The smaller the water drops, the broader the bow. When the drops get down to mist size then we have a fogbow.” Thank you, Les!
Mountains in the distance, gray streamers of virga coming down against bright sky.
Jill Whamond captured this virga in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Curved, windblown virga against a background of horizontal clouds at sunset.
In Boden in northern Sweden, by Birgit Bodén.
Streamers coming down from dark blue cloud with lighter sky behind, and distant mountains.
Virga over Golden Open Space, New Mexico. Photo via Jay Chapman.
Dark virga against a strip of deep orange sky between layers of dark clouds.
Timothy Busch caught this virga at sunset in New Mexico.
Virga streamers against pink-yellow sky.
Susan Jensen captured this image of virga in eastern Washington.
Almost horizontal virga from deep blue clouds over bright sunset horizon.
Birgit Bodén captured virga during a midnight sunset in the month of June, from northern Sweden.
Striking gray and black image of short streamers coming down from dark cloud against black silhouetted mesa.
Ron Ratliff caught this virga near Mexican Hat, Utah.
High pink clouds over a dark cloud with virga in distance.
Virga over Montana. Photo via Jessica Gutliph Karr.
Patchy gray and white clouds against blue sky, with virga below the lowest, and a red mountain on horizon.
Virga over West Texas. Photo via Deborah Byrd.
White fluffy clouds with white virga coming down from them, seen over a house rooftop.
Virga over Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Photo via Beth Katz.
Sunset sky with horizontal clouds against orange, with curved virga streamers from dark cloud at top.
Virga over Sweden in the month of April. Photo via Jorgen Norrland Andersson.

Bottom line: Photos of virga, rain that evaporates before it reaches the ground.

Share your photos of the Earth and sky!

Enjoying EarthSky? Sign up for our free daily newsletter today

March 27, 2022

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Deborah Byrd

View All