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Does Rain Making Really Work?

Additional Reading

Whenever there's a drought, someone will come up with
the idea of finding a rain maker, or holding a day of
prayer for rain.

Now far be it for me to make light of people who are
in truly desperate straits and who are prepared to try
anything to relieve their precarious situation. The worst
that can happen, assuming no deliberate or unknowing
fraud, is that everyone has something else to think
about for a day or so. For a while they have some cause
for hope.

And it may indeed rain and the drought will be over.
But in most cases not.

For more information on droughts, visit

Rain making can be divided into two types - cloud
seeding, which has strong scientific and engineering
reasoning behind it, and, for the moment, everything else.

Cloud seeding has been used to create or increase rain
for over 50 years, and while the results are a little
patchy and rarely spectacular, when the right combination
of cloud seeding method and clouds is present, it has been
shown to work many times over, and in a cost effective way.

But what of the rest? I don't wish to question the power
of prayer, which presumably transcends all physical rules,
but it is worth looking at just what it would take to
change the weather pattern before it is ready to

But first let's take a look at the rain maker's methods.

They can be divided into two parts - local knowledge and
rainmaking techniques of ceremonies.

Firstly, rainmakers with a good reputation will generally
be folk with a strong knowledge of local weather, climate,
and seasonal changes. Some of these may be subconscious,
but I think we can give them some credit for astuteness
and good observational powers. This allows the rainmaker
to practise his or her rituals at a time when a change
in the weather seems most likely. With good local weather
knowledge, chances of success will be high, and in any
event, payment is usually dependent on success. It is
also human nature to remember (and advertise) the
successes and forget the failures.

In primitive societies, rain makers usually have an inbuilt
"get out" clause. The rain making ceremony consists of
certain things done by the rain maker, supported by other
rituals, requirements, or prohibitions required of the
community the rain maker is serving.

These may be bans on certain foods or practices, but if
the rain doesn't come, who is to say that someone in the
community failed to play their part, destroying the rain
maker's good efforts?

And eventually, with persistence, the rain will come.

So, in a very general way, that's how the rain maker works.

But let's see what he or she is up against.

Weather is the local end result of the effects of the vast
atmospheric circulation system, which works towards creating
some sort of balance between unequal heating of the earths
surface, the planet's rotation, transferring water from
the oceans to the atmosphere and back again, variable
distribution of warm and cold water currents in the oceans,
and much, much more.

All this takes a huge amount of energy. Let's put it in
perspective. In 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the
Japanese city of Hiroshima, effectively destroying it.
That bomb was the equivalent of 12,500 tons of TNT, or
12.5 kilotons. An average thunderstorm generates
the equivalent of 20 kilotons.

A hurricane generates the equivalent of a 10 megaton bomb
- 10 million tons of TNT - every 20 minutes. Some people
have asked why large bombs aren't used to divert or
destroy hurricanes. Others have suggested that would be
about as effective as throwing a ping-pong ball at a
charging elephant.

To create rain out of nothing, a rain maker would need
to control huge amounts of energy to overcome the inertia
of the stable weather systems associated with droughts.
With that sort of power, why hasn't the rain maker taken
over the world, hopefully for the good of all, or at the
very least made his fortune by affecting the results of
horse races?

About the Author

Copyright 2005, Graham McClung. A retired geologist, Graham
McClung has had a lifelong interest in the outdoors. And
where there's outdoors there's weather. He is the editor of
Home-Weather-Stations-Guide.com, where you can find reviews
and advice to help you choose and use your own home weather
station. You can contact him by email at


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