That time the US government tried to make it rain by exploding dynamite in the sky
Weather science in the 19th century wasn’t quite what it is today. So when a particularly dry spell hit Texas in 1891, the government did what only seemed right: They shot dynamite into the sky.
Make It Rain
In 1871, former Civil War general Edward Powers published an interesting book. His tome, titled War and the Weather, noted that rain frequently occurred directly after a battle. His theory? The loud booms of the cannons agitated the clouds into releasing water.
Armed with bombs, kites, and balloons, he and several other weather enthusiasts traveled to a Texas ranch hoping to replicate those conditions on their own. The citizens, in the midst of a great drought, didn’t seem to mind.
Bombs Over Texas
The men set up camp at the ranch of Chicago meat-packing magnate Nelson Morris. There, they flew kites with dynamite sticks attached to them and fired mortars into the sky using specially constructed guns.
The experiments took place over several days and, incidentally, after each round of explosives, it rained.
Robert Dyrenforth, former Union Army soldier and all-around weather freak, stated that the explosions “caused water to run into the ‘draws,’ and the plains to be drenched.” Many locals disagreed, complaining that there was nothing more than a drizzle.
A Whole Lot Of Hot Air
In the end, it seems that the experiments amounted to nothing more than smoke and fire. Government officials didn’t find the evidence credible. George Bonar, meteorologist at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, said that there was a “great deal of skepticism.” Scientific journals mocked the rainmakers.
Today, instead of shooting dynamite into the sky, men shoot silver iodide. In one notable occurrence, China used cloud seeding in an effort to stop the 2008 Summer Olympics from getting drenched with rain. The results are just as dubious.