Pluviculture is Patahistorical
pluviometric a., pertaining to the measurement of rainfall.
Recently I was telling one of my graduate colleagues that I'm writing about the military use of balloons in the 19th century. He recommended a book called The Rainmakers: American "Pluviculture" to World War II, by Clark C. Spence. This book has nothing to do with military use of ballooning and only tangentially concerns ballooning at all. It reveals, however, a rich vein for patahistorical research. While technological attempts to make rain may be stretching the definition of "imaginary," as patahistorical gatekeeper I've decided that pluviculture is patahistorical.
Spence's book is about con-men who roamed the countryside promising rain to communities suffering through a drought. He opens with James P. Espy, a serious-minded, mid-19th century US meteorologist. From there he covers several less reputable characters who represent various methods of rain-making, from cannonades, which mimic the sound of thunder in order to bring rain, to smell-makers who attempt to flood the sky with various chemicals to induce precipitation.
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time today to spend with this book, and so will have to return to it another time. A subject search in worldcat using "weather control" uncovers a tremendous wealth of information available.
I lifted the following poem from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) webpage, NOAA History.
An Ode to Pluviculture
or The Rhyme of the Rain Machine
by F. W. Clarke, 1891
Said Jeremy Jonathan Joseph Jones,
"The weather is far too dry,
So I reckon I'll have to stir my bones
And try the effect of concussive tones
Upon the lazy sky."
So Jeremy Jonathan Joseph went
Away to the nearest town:
And there his money was quickly spent
For queer contraptions all intent
To make the rain come down.
There were cannon, and mortars, and lots of shells,
And dynamite by the ton;
With a gas balloon and a chime of bells
And various other mystic spells
To overcloud the sun.
The day was fair and the sky was bright,
And never a cloud was seen;
When Jeremy Jonathan set alight
His biggest fuse and screwed up tight
The joints of the rain machine.
He fired a shot, and barely two,
When the sky began to pale;
The third one brought a heavy dew,
But at the fourth tornadoes blew,
With thunder, rain, and hail.
It rained all night and another day,
And then for a week or more;
It flooded the farm in a scandalous way,
And drowned poor Jeremy, sad to say,
Who Couldn't stop the pour.
O! Jeremy Jonathan Joseph Jones,
Your farm was fair to see;
But now a lake lies over its stones,
From whose dark bosom horrific moans
Are heard noctallee.
To check the flood you started, I've heard
All efforts were in vain;
Until the Bureau at Washington stirred,
And stopped the storm with a single word,
By just predicting - Rain!
Coincidentally, reading Boing Boing recently directed me to this Economist article about artificial tornadoes and it made me wonder if Oklahoma, which is tornado-rich, might find a way to harness real tornadoes as an energy source.
Besides the engineering challenges involved, Mr Michaud must navigate the cultural divide between atmospheric scientists and the weather-modification community. The scientists regard the weather-modification crowd as cranks. They, in turn, cannot understand why the scientists are not taking a more hands-on, experimental approach to understanding the weather, rather than simply observing and modelling it.
This page purports to be a history of weather modification (especially cloud seeding,) but the reference to Bernard Vonnegut at GE in Schenectady, prompted me to think of this Vonnegut's (who worked in public relations at GE in Schenectady in the 50s) Cat's Cradle and the ice-nine therein.
"My longest experience with common decency, surely, has been with my older brother, my only brother, Bernard....We were given very different sorts of minds at birth. Bernard could never be a writer and I could never be a scientist." - Kurt Vonnegut