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What is the difference between 'showers' and 'rain'?
There are very few weather forecasts that do not include the words rain or showers. Most forecasts include both. Here is an attempt to clarify their meanings.
' Sunny spells, clouds bubbling up and perhaps a shower'.

What can you expect? 

Firstly; sunny spells suggest half cloud and half sun. On a typical day in early summer that means 6 hours sun and 6 hours cloud. 

Secondly: 'perhaps a shower' suggests the cloud building enough to give, say, a 1 in 3 chance of a shower. ....and the shower? An interlude of rain. probably lasting for less than 20 minutes, with sunshine at either end of the shower. In the late Spring, Summer and early Autumn the higher the temperature the greater the chance of a shower; so the risk increases from late morning and decreases in the evening..

Typical day of building/bubbling cumulus clouds and 'perhaps' a shower.

'Sunshine and showers, these perhaps heavy and thundery'.

What can you expect?

Firstly: no mention of the amounts of sunshine, so assume some places will get a little,  while other areas, a few kilometres down the road, get considerably more.

Secondly, assume there will be at least one shower, and probably several. Still 20 minutes or less for each shower but maybe the gaps between showers are small. Although, most showers would probably be light, there coulld be a 1 in 3 chance of a heavy one carrying the risk of thunder.
A thundery shower moving away eastwards to leave some late sunshine.

' Bright at first, clouds thickening, rain in afternoon'.

What can you expect?

Firstly: don't expect any sunshine. There may be some weak sunshine before the layers of cloud thicken up, and that may heat the land enough to allow small cumulus clouds to bubble up, but not enough to produce a shower.

Secondly: the rain begins. Usually just gentle rain to start with, this becoming heavier with time. After 20 minutes it;'s still raining, after a couple of hours it's still raining. This is rain not showers!

The last of the weak sunshine disappears as cloud thickens. Rain is on the way.

'Cloudy with rain at times'.

What can you expect?

Firstly: it's what it says! Rain from layers of cloud. There could be easing of the rain, it may turn brighter; but sunshine? probably not.

Secondly: in most cases rain  is associated with weather fronts and showers occur between weather fronts.

A wet day at Lyme Regis. Rain at times? Yes, all the time!

Finally, those annoying expressions!

'Showers, or longer spells of rain'.

It sounds vague, but unfortunately it is!  Usually a short sharp shower from bubbling cumulus, followed by a brief sunny interval, followed by another shower that goes on....and on .....and on .....and where's that sunshine after it stops. Oh, here it is, and then there's another shower!

'Outbreaks of showery rain'.

What!! That really takes the biscuit! Neither rain nor showers but usually refers to a period of several hours with mostly cloudy skies, fairly lengthy dry spells, but also short, often sharp, bursts of rain that appear to imitate showers.
Or, in spells of hot and sultry weather, those with long memories may recall them, clouds often bubble up high in the sky (twice as high as your ordinary cumulus cloud). Sometimes these clouds produce a sudden burst of rain ....or was it a shower? Or, as a weatherperson would say .....showery rain! 


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