Thursday, August 24, 2017

Rainmaker, Rainmaker, Make Me Some Rain...

As you know, California recently experienced a five-year drought. Things got so bad that many of my neighbors either let their lawns die or replaced the grass with artificial turf or rocks. Others simply found a way of stealing water.  Yep, that's right; we had to contend with water thieves.
My husband came up with yet another solution; he simply painted our grass
Paint your grass green
green (see before and after photo).  Yep, there's actually grass paint that you can spray on and it works!
I remember watching all that craziness and wondering about 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.
Public domain
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 accidentally set a series of prairie fires and was given the name Dry-Henchforth.
Charles Hatfield: Washington State Library Blog
At the turn of the twentieth century, the west was going through another drought and water wars erupted.  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.  It took twenty-two years before the case was finally thrown out of court.
Though Hatfield’s methods met with little success, he was on to something and cloud-seeding has been around since the discovery of iodide weather modification properties in the 1940s.
Earlier this year, Los Angeles officials generated more rain from recent storms
Cloud seeding in L.A. Photo credit KTLA
with cloud seeding generators. Silver iodide molecules were shot into the air and turned into crystals. Moisture clung to the crystals and came down as rainfall.   
The devices cannot kick-start rain activity but can generate as much as five to fifteen percent more rain during an actual storm.
Cloud-seeding can only be done under certain conditions. The temperature and wind must be just right and there’s always a chance of being too successful.  No company wants to be held liable for flood damage. 
It’s also expensive and some studies have indicated a toxicity to animals. But even with all these problems, cloud-seeding works.  No battles or firing of cannons necessary.  

So what do you think?  Do the benefits of cloud-seeding outweigh the risks?

 There's a new sheriff in town 
and she almost always gets her man!

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  1. Informative post about making rain throughout history. I remember a few years ago individuals were spray painting their yards green due to the drought we were experiecing in the Midwest.

    1. Hi Marilyn, when my husband spray-painted our grass, the neighbors thought he was crazy, but we had the greenest grass on the block.

  2. Well Margaret, I certainly learned some new things from your post - from beliefs that noise caused rain to grass-painting. I also wasn't familiar with cloud-seeding. If it works, it seems like a good thing, but then I don't know what the side effects are. A friend of mine came east a couple of years ago during the drought and was amazed to see how much rain that side of the country had.

    1. Hi Marilyn, yes, the amount of rain back east can be surprising. It surprises me when people carry on about the lack of rain here in Southern California. We live in the desert. A drought is normal.

  3. Thank you for sharing your very interesting post. I have never heard of cloud-seeding.

    1. Hi Melanie, you'll probably hear more about cloud-seeding in the future. It's caused some major floods in the past, but they seem to have a better handle on it now. We'll see.

  4. You always come up with the most interesting info. I'd never heard about the rain following so many battles. That's really interesting. I don't know if seeding clouds is good or not. I wonder what the chemicals do to people.

    1. Hi Vickie, a lot of people wonder about the danger of the chemicals to people and animals. The US Public Health Service claims there is a little environmental impact by cloud seeding. But some studies have shown that silver iodide is toxic and dangerous. I guess the safest bet is to pray for rain--REAL rain.