On This Date in History: These days, every time there is a lack of rain in an area of the country, stories start surfacing about some who claim its an example of Global Warming. The truth is that droughts have happened throughout the history of time. It’s funny how when the Global Warming talk comes up, even more recent history is ignored. The Dust Bowl years represented a pretty long time frame of below average rainfall and in conjunction with poor farming techniques, caused a disaster and helped contribute to a long economic depression. So, these periods of dry weather over an extended period are not new. In fact, going back through time, mankind has tried to invent a way to make it rain. Even today, there is research going on in cloud seeding efforts to try and control the rain. The results have been inconclusive.
In the past year, we’ve seen the “stimulus bill” in which there was much criticism over spending on projects that have been labled “pork barrell.” This type of charge is not new and I wonder what the masses thought on this date in 1891, when the United States Department of Agriculture hired and funded a special agent. His job was to make it rain.
Now, there was a theory floating about that producing big noises in the sky would make it rain. It was called the “concussion method” and the idea was that gunpowder explosions in the sky would create rain. They called the process “air quakes.” The notion was brought forth by Edward Powers who in 1880 wrote that in wars, often when there was a heavy cannonade, significant rain soon followed. He said that the jarring of the air combined with smoke caused a reaction with “nuclei or mechanical retaining points.” He also suggested that the atmospheric pressure was affected by the concussion and the buoyancy of the gases and heat given off by the explosion forced a rising of the air which caused a disturbance. Somehow, he then deduced that the explosions created electricity and friction “producing polarization of the earth and sky…inducing…other conditions necessary for storm formation, electrical manifestation being a constant forerunner and concomitant of storms…” There were other theories of rain making but General Robert St. George Dyrenforth said he didn’t understand those but, as an old soldier, he too had observed copius amounts of rain following cannon battles. So that’s the one he went along with and got the backing of Illinois Senator Charles B. Farwell. Just like today, all you need to do is convince a politician that you deserve government money and bingo..into the budget you go. As I’ve pointed out many times on these here pages…what we see today is nothing new. I guess no one ever thought that maybe it would have rained whether there was a battle or not. Nope…it had to be the cannon fire! Never mind the times it did not rain after a battle…just like some ignore the droughts of the past today.
In 1890, Congress appropriated about $9,000 to test out the theory and hired Dyrenforth to do the deed. Experimentation began in 1891 at c Ranch in Andrews County near Midland, Texas. The experimentation continued throughout 1891 and Governor James Stephen Hogg of Texas was so excited he wrote a letter to Texas politician John Dix announcing his intent to observe the action. When Hogg found out that Dyrenforth had returned to Washington, he added a note at the bottom of the letter suggesting that the experiments continue in the Southwestern part of Texas, which they did through 1892 near San Antonio.
Well, Dyrenforth piled up enough munitions to start a small war. He fired cannons into the sky, attached explosive to kites and did anything else he could think of to send ripples through the atmosphere to create a cloud burst. Reportedly, one time it did rain. The rest of the time, he came up dry. One would think that over a long period of time more than once at least a rain shower would show up on its own, but apparently the General wasn’t that lucky. One editor reported that “he attacked front and rear, by the right and left flank. But the sky remained clear as the complexion of a Saxon maid.” Dyrenforth’s official job title at the Department of Agriculture was pluviculturist. That’s the governmental term for rainmaker. The people of Texas came up with their own title for him…General Dryhenceforth.
Weather Bottom Line: I told you that I wasn’t so enthused about a big warm up for the weekend and so far, so good. We topped out at 34 on Saturday with all of those clouds coming in from the flow around the low that brought all of the snow to the Northeast. That low was progged to hang around and with vort lobes rotating around, or little waves of low pressure, we’d get clouds and perhaps a little snow from time to time. And, that is what happened.
Now, there is a big fat low coming out of the Southwest, in response to that low, the general long wave pattern will flutter. The jetstream will lift up somewhat bringing the 5400m 500mb-1000mb thickness line north close to Louisville. That is the general rule of thumb for freezing surface temperatures but that rule sorta gets thrown out to some degree when you get to the springtime. So, on Sunday, our thicknesses increase to about 5370 m. As this buckle in the jetstream occurs, the low in the Northeast gets dislodged and gets kicked out to sea. While there are low clouds, the mid and upper levels clear out so afternoon sunshine should break up the low deck and we get sunshine. Getting to 40 degrees will not be out of the question at all.
That low will traverse along the northern Gulf Coast and so on Monday, as it passes by, the trof will fill back in behind us so we should start to get colder again by Monday afternoon so highs will probably stop somewhere in the upper 30’s. Tuesday is a question. I’m guessing that the low will not track inland too far and instead cross Florida from Tallahassee and exit back into the Atlantic near Savannah. We will get clouds. The GFS wants to throw out about an inch of snow over 36 hours Tuesday into Wednesday. If that happens it won’t be too significant. I suspect that we will see highs in the low to mid 30’s for the balance of the week.