What does ‘chance of rain’ really mean? TikTok just demystified the weather term

A TikToker unleashed a little-known tidbit about the weather and got a response from The Weather Channel. 

Now everyone is asking, what does “chance of rain” mean? 

Here’s what most people think it means. 

Typically, when you see a weather forecast on an app or the news, you’ll see a little symbol of a cloud with raindrops and note that it might rain. Then you’ll see a percentage, like 30 percent or 40 percent. 

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Most people believe that the percentage is representative of the chance that it will rain that day — so if you see 70 percent, you might think it will rain for sure and take an umbrella. Or maybe you see it’s at 20 percent and risk it without any gear. 

Well, we’ve all been wrong. So so wrong. 

A TikTok user debunked this common misconception.

@sydjkell

#stitch with @sooklyn #ColorCustomizer I have toooo many of these. I’ll do another weather one. #embarassing #iwastodayyearsold

♬ original sound – Syd

The TikToker @sydjkell recently discovered what “chance of rain” actually means and decided to share with the class, thankfully. 

“I thought 100% that when they said there’s a 30% chance of rain, that it means there was a 30% chance it was going to rain. I never knew it meant 100% it’s going to rain and it’s going to be in 30% of your area,” @sydjkell said. “Am I the only one who didn’t know this until they were grown-t?” 

Here’s what ‘chance of rain’ means, according to a meteorologist. 

@weatherchannel

What is your chance of precip? It’s complicated… @sydjkell #todayyearsold #weather #askameteorologist #fyp

♬ I’M CONFUSED – Brian C Rice

The Weather Channel responded directly to @sydjkell on TikTok and meteorologist Geoff Cornish tried to break her theory down. 

“Basically if you stay in one spot and you have a 30 percent chance of rain, then you have a 30 percent chance for rain,” Cornish said. “If you move around a little bit throughout the day, the chances will go up.” 

This is why entering your zip code is essential to getting an accurate weather reading. The percentage refers to the chance in your specific area, based on the premise that it is 100 percent going to rain. So the next time you see any percentage at all you’ll at least know it’s definitely going to be raining somewhere relatively nearby.

“Important to remember it’s not about how much rain falls,” the meteorologist added. “You could have a 10 percent chance for rain and still end up with flooding if you get caught under a rogue thunderstorm.” 

In more technical terms, the chance of rain is based on the “Probability of Precipitation” or PoP. It’s a formula that takes into account the likelihood that it will rain and how much area in a specific location it will cover, along with other relevant factors. 

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