Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rainmaker, Rainmaker, Make Us Some Rain...


 The success of a rain dance has a lot to do with timing

As you may have heard California has been going through a terrible drought.  Though El Nino has brought us some much needed rain, experts say that it will take more than one El Nino to climb out of a four-year drought.
El Nino means "the little boy" or Christ Child" in Spanish.  The cycle of unusually warm waters in the Pacific ocean was first recognized by a fisherman in the 1600s. The name was chosen because El Nino makes it appearance around December.
What's it like to live through a drought?  I have to admit things got a little crazy  on the "water front" this past summer. Many of my neighbors either let their lawns die or replaced them with artificial turf or rocks. Others simply found a way of stealing water.  Yep, that right; we had water thieves to contend with.
My husband came up with yet another solution; he simply painted our grass green (see before and after photo).  Yep, there's actually grass paint that you can spray on and it works!
Watching all this craziness around me made me wonder how they tackled droughts in the past.  I'm pretty sure they didn't have grass paint back in the 1800s.
For many years people believed that cloudbursts were caused by noise.  Plutarch was the first to note that a rainstorm followed every great battle. He thought it was nature's way of purifying the ground after bloodshed.
He wasn't the only one who believed in the "concussion theory of rainmaking;" Napoleon was among the many military leaders convinced that artillery fire caused rain. After losing the battle of Waterloo due to the muddy battleground, he came up with the strategy of firing weapons in the air in hopes that a deluge would disable the enemy.
Amazingly, more than 150 major civil war battles were followed by rainstorms. Witnessing the rain that fell after the battle of Bull Run, J.C. Lewis blamed it on the "discharge of heavy artillery."
Not everybody agreed that rain was generated by blasts. Meteorologist James
Pollard Espy, known as the Storm King, insisted it wasn't the noise, but rather the heat of battle that opened the clouds.  To prove his theory he asked that he be allowed to set a 600 mile stretch of land on fire. Congress turned down his request.
Heat or noise, no one really knew for sure. Brigadier General Robert Dyrenforth decided to settle the matter once and for all by conducting a series of rain-making experiments in Texas. He used artillery and balloon-carrying explosives.  Instead of rain, he set a series of prairie fires and was given the name Dry-Henchforth.
Hatfield's Rainmaking Tower
At the turn of the twentieth century, the west was going through another drought and water wars raged.  It was the perfect environment for a former sewing machine salesman by the name of Charles Hatfield aka Robin Hood of the Clouds.  Offering his services to farmers he built high towers and released a chemical concoction he created.  Because of clever timing he had some initial success, which is why the city of San Diego hired him. 
In 1916 he climbed his newly built tower and tossed his chemicals into the air. Lo and behold, the sky opened up dumping thirty-five inches of rain on the city and causing a tremendous amount of damage.  The city wanted Hatfield to take responsibility for what was called the Hatfield flood, but he refused, claiming it was an act of God. When the city failed to pay him his $10,000, he sued, but after twenty-two years the case was finally thrown out of court.
Los Angeles Rainmaking Generator
Though Hatfield’s methods met with little success, he was on to something. Los Angeles officials hoping to squeeze more water from current storms are using cloud seeding generators to send silver iodide molecules into the air which turn into crystals. Moisture clings to the crystals and comes down as rainfall.   According to the Los Angeles public works, there are ten of these rain generating machines in the county.  The devices cannot kick-start rain activity but can generate more rain during an actual storm.
If this doesn’t work, we may have to bring back the cannons.

Working Undercover is No Job For a Lady!


  1. I live in a drought area...Redding, CA. We've actually had to conserve water. I live in an apartment, so I don't have a lawn to worry about. There are actual fines for people who water their lawns on the wrong day. The recent storms have been a blessing. This is a great and interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I know where Redding is. Yes, the recent storms have been a blessing and we're having a glorious spring. My roses haven't looked this great for years. Thank you for stopping by.

  3. We had a terrible drought here in Texas and in Houston. We lost our front lawn and two old, old trees.(My arms wouldn't go around them) Then last spring we had floods and rain and more rain. Mother Nature is very fickle. We've had a wet few months so far, and I hope it stays that way. Everything is so green and our azaleas were spectacular.

    1. Martha, I saw your floods on TV. That was a lot of rain! Too bad we can't spread the wealth.

  4. Wow, Margaret! I think that's one of the most interesting posts I've ever read. I read it to my 17 yr old who's always been interested in the weather and he thought it was fascinating too. Thank you.