Rainmakers In The Desert

The "last resort" rain dance ordered by your tribal chief may be defunct from now on. According to Belgian and Israeli researchers, a new technique involving a large, specially-crafted tarpaulin promises to create rain in sub-tropical regions where rainfall is typically less than 150 mm. The researchers say precipitation in dry areas could be as high as 700 mm a year and this increase could shunt the spread of desertification. According to Israel21c, scientists plan to produce rain in sub-tropical areas during the cloudless summer months.

Led by Professor Leon Brenig from the University of Brussels and partnered with desert researchers from Israel's Ben Gurion University, the project being touted as "Project Geshem" (Geshem is Hebrew for rain) also makes use of computer analysts at UCLA and space imagery from NASA.

It works like this: energy from sunlight is absorbed by several kilometers of special thermal-conductive material spread over the ground. The light is radiated back into the air to heat the lower atmosphere with minimal loss into the ground; as the heated air rises, it takes with it water condensation high enough to form clouds and produce out-of-season rain.

Eli Zaady, a researcher on the project and ecologist from Israel, explains the technique could increase crops for a given area by 40 percent. "It all depends on the amount moisture in the air," said Zaady.

Northeastern Brazil, North Africa, the Kalahari and Sahara deserts could all benefit from the method, notes Israel21c. In southeast Spain where desertification is claiming large swathes of agricultural land, authorities have already shown great interest in the project and have indicated they would finance a large trial in that country.

"It can bring water to a place where there is no water," says Zvi Finklestein, of Acktar, whose company has produced the reflective material. "Where there is water there is life, and then there is no limit to the imagination." ::Israel21c
:: Israel21c, :: See related :: Blame It On The Sand: Bejing's Fake Rain