precipitation is the primary factor that controls the hydrologic cycle. It takes different forms, such as rain, snow, hail, sleet, drizzle, dew, and fog. It supplies most of the fresh water on the Earth. Most precipitation starts from space as snow, as the upper space is cooler. If the temperature of the surface closer to the ground is below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), then the precipitation falls on the ground in the form of snow. If the ground and closer surface temperature is above 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), the precipitation takes the form of rain. When the air at the ground is below freezing, the raindrops can freeze while heating the ground, and that is known as freezing rain. When a dust particle in the atmosphere attracts a moisture drop, hail is formed. Drizzle consists of very small raindrops, 1/1000 of a normal raindrop size. Sleet is a type of precipitation between rain and snow, but very distinct from hail. Dew is another form of precipitation that can be seen in the early morning on colder days. Water vapor in the atmosphere condenses on the surface of exposed objects at a greater rate than that at which it can evaporate, developing dew. Fog as such is not precipitation, but is considered one because of its low-altitude occurrence. This consists of a cloud in contact with the ground, and produces water droplets when intercepted with vegetation or other exposed objects. If the precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground, it is then known as virga.

The 1996 Hurricane Fran, shown in a weather sattelite image, caused about $5 billion in damages in North Carolina alone. Greater precipitation, including hurricanes, typhoons, ocean depressions, and floods, are being experienced globally.

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