Scientists’ Masterplan To Make Rain By Zapping The Clouds5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Drought, no problem! We’ll just make it rain.
Climate change has changed our world in ways that we can no longer ignore. And one of the many problems that we simply cannot deny any longer is the lack of fresh drinking water. According to the WWF, two-thirds of the world may face water shortages by 2025. But, even though it has taken far too long, and we aren’t yet doing enough, the world is finally trying to step up to the challenge of climate change. Scientists are trying to use renewable energy that won’t warm the planet, an increasing number of electric cars are on the market, and people are trying to change their lifestyles.
One of the parts of the world that suffers from water shortages, prolonged droughts and severe heat is the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East.
The UAE receives an average of 100mm of rain per year. As opposed to India, where we receive over 1000 mm of rain every year!
As you would imagine, they need more rain. However, the country can’t afford to sit and wait for the effects of climate change to somehow reverse. The UAE needs a solution now, and for that, the government needs to somehow control the weather.
Finally, the UAE might have the chance to do just that. The country’s government has offered researchers from the University of Reading money and a place to test their cloud zapping systems. These systems shock the clouds with an electric current and thereby produce rain. Sounds shocking? Let’s find out how it all works.
How clouds work
Before we get to discussing how scientists plan to shock the clouds into action, let’s take a better look at clouds. You probably already know that clouds form within the water cycle. When water from the ground evaporates, it turns into a gas known as water vapour. Once this water vapour reaches the skies, it condenses with the cold temperature. The water vapour turns into minuscule particles of water or ice. These particles stick to the dust in the atmosphere and clump together to form clouds. As the particles keep clumping together, they get heavier and heavier and eventually, they can’t keep floating as clouds anymore. Gravity pulls the large droplets down towards the Earth as rain.
Now, you can make your own clouds at home! Follow this guide and witness the magic of the skies.
A glass jar
Some black chart paper
A roll of tape
A large metal bowl or sheet, if the jar has a metal lid, that’ll work too.
Some warm water
The cloud-making process:
First, wash your jar and make sure that you can see through it. If it has a label, remove the label and wipe off the sticky glue with warm water. Cut the black sheet so that it covers half of the jar vertically. Make sure you leave some entirely uncovered pace at the bottom of the jar. Fill the ice in the metal bowl, or place some ice cubes on the lid or metal sheet. Next, fill one-fourth of the jar with warm water. Keep your match ready to light because speed is of the essence.
Now, your experiment may begin. Light your match and place it in the jar for as long as possible. Once the match’s flame is out, drop it in the water and quickly cover the jar with whatever is holding the ice. Now put off the lights and watch a cloud form within the jar (make sure you don’t stare at the covered side because then you’ll have only viewed black paper, behind which, of course, there will be a cloud nonetheless). Slowly you should see your cloud get bigger and bigger, then open the jar and free the cloud to watch it rise up and disappear.
The scientists plan to send unmanned drones to the clouds, where they will insert a charge into the tiny water droplets of the cloud. Each of the little droplets in the cloud already carries a negative or positive charge. When the cloud is floating in the skies, the positive and negative charges of the droplets balance each other out. So, on a usual cloudy day, the particles slowly come together and form larger and larger droplets until the cloud can’t contain them anymore. Then, these droplets fall as rain. The problem in the UAE is that the air is so dry and hot that unless the droplets are large, they evaporate soon after they fall.
So far, researchers have created successful computer models to test their idea. They have also tested successfully the zapping drones in the UK, but that won’t necessarily translate into a success in the UAE, as the weather and atmospheric conditions in the two countries are starkly different from one another.
If the scientists’ plan works, then adding a charge to the tiny droplets will create a disbalance within the cloud. This will make the water particles attract each other faster and with more force. Thus, larger raindrops will fall, and they won’t evaporate before they fall to the ground as rain!