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Rainmaking, also known as artificial precipitation, is the act of attempting to artificially induce or increase precipitation, usually to stave off drought. According to the clouds' different physical properties, this can be done using airplanes or rockets to sow to the clouds with catalysts such as dry ice, silver iodide and salt powder, to make clouds rain or increase precipitation, to remove or mitigate farmland drought, to increase reservoir irrigation water or water supply capacity, or to increase water levels for power generation.
In the US, rainmaking was attempted by traveling showmen. It was practiced in the old west but may have reached a peak during the dust bowl drought of the American West and Midwest in the 1930s. The practice was depicted in the 1956 film The Rainmaker. Attempts to bring rain directly have waned with development of the science of meteorology, the advent of laws against fraud and increased communication technology, with some exceptions such as cloud seeding and rain dances or other forms of prayer, which are still practiced today. Prayer for more rain is also a cross cultural practice in Christian and Muslim Ethiopia as well as in areas where people keep "traditional" non-scriptural religions. In the Christian areas the Defteras (learned clerics of the Orthodox Christian Church) believed to have the wisdom to arrest the rain, to bring hail to farms of individuals who refuse to comply with religious rules as well as to bring more rains when the rainy season fell short of giving the usual amount of rain needed for growing cereals.
The term is also used metaphorically to describe the process of bringing new clients into a professional practice, such as law, architecture, consulting, advertising, or investment banking – in general, processes that bring money into a company.
Since the 1940s, cloud seeding has been used to change the structure of clouds by dispersing substances into the air, potentially increasing or altering rainfall. In spite of experiments dating back to at least the start of the 20th century, however, there is much controversy surrounding the efficacy of cloud seeding, and evidence that cloud seeding leads to increased precipitation on the ground is highly equivocal. One difficulty is knowing how much precipitation might have fallen had any particular cloud not been seeded. Operation Popeye was a US military rainmaking operation to increase rains over Vietnam during the Vietnam War in order to slow Vietnamese military truck activity in the region. Rainmaking is not geoengineering, which seeks to alter climate, but a form of weather modification, as it seeks only to change local weather.
William Reich's Cloudbuster
Austrian-American psychoanalyst William Reich designed a "cloudbuster" in the United States with which he said he could manipulate streams of orgone energy (which he claimed was a primordial cosmic energy) in the atmosphere to induce rain by forcing clouds to form and disperse. It was a set of hollow metal pipes and cables inserted into water, which Reich argued created a stronger orgone energy field than was in the atmosphere, the water drawing the atmospheric orgone through the pipes. Reich called his research "Cosmic Orgone Engineering".
Rain dances and prayer
In many societies around the world, rain dances and other rituals have been used to attempt to increase rainfall. Some Native Americans used rain dances extensively. European examples include the Romanian ceremonies known as paparuda and caloian. Some United States farmers also attempt to bring rain during droughts through prayer. These rituals differ greatly in their specifics, but share a common concern with bringing rain through ritual and/or spiritual means. Typical of these ceremonies was then-governor of Georgia Sonny Perdue's public prayer service for rain, in 2007.
- Sanders, Todd 2008. Beyond Bodies: Rainmaking and Sense Making in Tanzania. Toronto, University of Toronto Press
In popular culture
- The video of the song "Cloudbusting" (based on the story of William Reich) by Kate Bush features Donald Sutherland as an inventor of a rainmaking machine.
- Kate Bush - Cloudbusting - Official Music Video Uploaded by KateBushMusic on Dec 17, 2010 on Youtube