Making rain

IT RAINS in the plains of Spain. Prof Higgins’ parroting words to improve the English language and pronunciation of a little flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, immortalised in My Fair Lady, are not coming true, unfortunately.

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Published: Sat 9 Jul 2005, 11:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:44 PM

Spain is facing its worst drought in 60 years. As withering crops, parched lands and half empty water reservoirs stare in its face, Madrid is seeking an international team’s help to solve its water problem.

The hi-tech experiment, to make it rain on the country’s dry Mediterranean coast, involves scientists from Spain, Belgium and Israel, and aims at creating ‘islands of heat’ to facilitate formation of rain clouds. The experiment is based on the presumption that when hot air currents from the land rise and clash with cool air above, rain clouds will form under right conditions.

This phenomenon has been observed in the satellite images of towns and cities taken by Nasa. Concrete structures and asphalt roads in urban clusters radiate heat and make the air warmer than adjoining areas. The hot air currents move upwards and collide with cool air blowing from non-urban areas, resulting in an increased rainfall. The scientists plan to replicate this natural occurrence on seacoast, using a heat-absorbing fabric, as the coast provides optimal conditions — temperature, humidity and breeze — for making rain.

If the scientists succeed in their experiment, it will be a boon for the world and its implications are mind-boggling. For example, swathes of arid land and deserts can be made green; food and drinking water shortages can be eliminated forever; and there won’t be any need for high-cost projects to produce water from sea. For many Third World countries, water is a precious commodity as they are heavily dependent on monsoon rains. If they fail one year, they face economic problems, social unrest and drought. Hopefully, the Spanish experiment will find some solutions to these and other problems — provided it accomplishes the desired results.

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