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Make It RainState Control of the Atmosphere in Twentieth-Century America$
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Kristine C. Harper

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226437231

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437378.001.0001

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(p.19) Chapter 1 Ka-Boom!
Make It Rain

Kristine C. Harper

University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses the US government’s initial forays into weather control in the late nineteenth century, which were based less on meteorological science—which was distinctly lacking at the time—and more on wishful thinking. It examines two federally sponsored rainmaking and cloud altering experiments. The first used explosives to shock rain out of the sky in an effort to increase land values and agricultural output in the Texas plains, and the second used electrified sand in an effort to clear fog and low clouds for Army aviators in the 1920s. While these attempts were in play, a variety of charlatans were busy peddling their secret chemicals and other rainmaking devices to anyone looking for additional water. Skeptical meteorologists spoke out against all of these attempts, but gained little ground because no one considered theory-deficient meteorology a real science. By the 1930s, however, European scientists were pushing ahead with cloud physics research that offered up hope of artificially triggering rainfall.

Keywords:   meteorology, rainmaking, federal funding, experiments, explosives, electrified sand, aviation, cloud physics

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