What is used to produce artificial rain

Rain at the push of a button

Attorney Robert Dyrenforth set up rocket launchers in Texas in 1891. It had no war-like background, but wanted to bomb raindrops out of the sky in the Texas drought. When there is a lack of vital water, people sometimes come up with strange ideas.

At the time, the meteorologist James Pollard Espy even wanted to burn entire forests so that moisture would condense and fall as precipitation. And rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield heated chemicals in a pan in the hope that the fumes would attract thick clouds and bring rain.

Water is life: no human, no animal, no plant can survive without water. And so that there is enough water, it has to rain regularly - otherwise rivers, lakes and groundwater supplies will no longer be fed and will dry up, the land will wither and slowly turn into a desert. Ever since people realized that life depends on the weather, they have tried to influence it.

The medicine man was already called upon as rainmaker among Indian tribes, and weather gods were worshiped in many cultures, for example in Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia and the Aztecs. Today influencing the weather is a science in itself. Governments, agricultural organizations and, above all, the military are researching how the weather can be changed and influenced for the respective purposes.

Many states are pursuing weather control plans. China is right at the forefront in this area: 37,000 people are employed in the country's weather modification program. Their mission is to generate rain - especially to wash the ubiquitous smog out of the air in metropolitan areas. In addition, the artificially generated rain is to be used to fight forest fires and to ensure the operation of hydropower plants. To do this, they fire at clouds with the help of rocket launchers and anti-aircraft cannons, the projectiles of which are filled with silver iodide.

According to the Chinese Meteorological Agency, the program is a success. In 2004 she announced that the rain in the region around Beijing had risen by an eighth, and that between 1995 and 2003, 210 cubic kilometers more precipitation fell across the country than normal.

In 2009, the weathermakers allegedly even created a snow storm. At the end of 2014, the agency announced an expansion of the program. It plans to set up six regional weather control centers by 2020. Improved cloud inoculation technologies are expected to artificially generate over 60 million cubic kilometers of precipitation each year. Another goal is to prevent the formation of destructive hailstones.

In addition to being bombarded with anti-aircraft cannons or missiles, the silver iodide can also be transported directly into clouds with the help of aircraft. The Chinese weathermakers resorted to this for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing: The silver iodide inoculated into the clouds was supposed to ensure that they rained down outside the city - and that the sky over Beijing was cloudless for the opening ceremony.

The United Arab Emirates are also relying on artificial water and are trying to wring every drop of the precious water out of the few clouds that pass over the desert state with the help of a weather plane that spreads silver iodide. The silver iodide serves as a so-called crystallization nucleus. Because the water vapor in the air cannot condense into rain on its own. To do this, it needs tiny particles in the air such as dust, soot - or silver iodide. The American Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Irving Langmuir, discovered in 1946 that the compound was suitable as a crystallization nucleus. After successful laboratory experiments, the first airplanes took off in the USA, which caused clouds to rain down through targeted “inoculation” with the salt compound. In the USA, this method has been used for decades, primarily to bring heavy snowfalls to the ski areas in the Rocky Mountains and to fill up the water reservoirs.

Another possibility is to use airplanes to distribute a saline solution in clouds. The salt particles attract water and thus absorb water vapor from the air. This causes larger and larger water droplets to form in the clouds, which are eventually heavy enough to fall to the ground. This method was used by the Royal Bureau for Rainmaking in Thailand in March of this year: In twelve provinces of the country affected by a severe drought, clouds were treated in this way on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture in order to generate more rainfall.

The authorities had previously warned of a water crisis due to the persistent drought, and the first villages were already cut off from the water supply and had to be supplied by tankers. But after the clouds had been treated, it actually started to rain. But the weather manipulation is not only for civil reasons. The military are also trying to take advantage of it. As early as 1940, the then US Air Force Commander George Kenney recognized: "The nation that is the first to control the paths of air masses and learns to determine the time and place of precipitation will rule the globe."

In the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the USA, both sides hoped to gain advantages through a “weather war”. In 1954, Howard Orville, advisor to then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, drafted the plan to raise hundreds of balloons with silver iodide and float them over the Soviet Union with the jet stream that flows from west to east in the upper troposphere . There, detonators were supposed to destroy the balloons, the trickling silver iodide would trigger heavy rains - and military operations of the enemy would be made more difficult.

The US Army Ordnance Corps pursued the opposite plan: the engineers wanted to use grenades to fire silver iodide and grains of dry ice into clouds to make them rain down before they reached Soviet territory. The goal: a massive drought in enemy territory that would threaten the food supply of the population. The British Royal Air Force also carried out corresponding experiments in August 1952 and inoculated clouds over Lynmouth in south-west England with condensation germs as part of "Operation Cumulus". With devastating consequences: Lynmouth was then hit by a devastating flood disaster. A massive mudslide killed 35 people and 420 were left homeless.

Even more perfidious was the later revealed idea of ​​the British military to detonate an atomic bomb in an artificially generated storm. The idea behind it: Then the radioactive fallout would be spread over a larger area than normal. And of course the Soviets also researched weather manipulation. Allegedly, the then head of state and party leader Nikita Khrushchev ordered the construction of storm generators.

In the Vietnam War, the US relied on artificially generated rain: The "Popeye" project aimed to make roads impassable with the help of artificial monsoon rains and thus interrupt the supply lines of the North Vietnamese Viet Cong. “Make mud, not war” (makes mud, not war) was the motto of the project, based on the hippie saying “Make love, not war”. However, the success was limited.