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How 19th Century Rainmakers Tried To Make West Texas Wetter

Johan Neven/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

FromTexas Standard:

After a dry summer in west Texas, locals would love nothing more than to be able to summon a rainstorm on command. This isn't a new desire; humans have a long history of trying to harness the clouds to do their bidding. Katie Nodjimbadem recently wrote about a wave of efforts to do that in Texas in the late 1800s, for Smithsonian Magazine.

Nodjimbadem says experiments took place in Midland and El Paso, and later in Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

"People had observed that after large battles in war, it would rain," Nodjimbadem says. "So, some experts developed this theory of concussion, which is the idea that if you blast things in clouds into the air, it will agitate the clouds and force rain to fall down."

A book written after the Civil War proposed the theory, and a senator eventually proposed spending government funds to blast rain out of the sky.

Nodjimbadem says that in El Paso, shooting dynamite into the sky was followed by moisture, but it fell on the opposite side of town from where the experiment took place.

"Although they took credit for that moisture, it's unlikely that they actually did anything," she says.

And besides, Nodjimbadem says, rain had previously been predicted in several areas where clouds were dynamited.

Nodjimbadem says west Texas attracted these kinds of rainmaking projects because the area is so dry. And west Texas offered lots of space in which to experiment. Later, others tried to force rain out of the clouds in California, and elsewhere.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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