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Scientists experimenting with laser beams to create rain

September 8, 2011 |  3:24 pm


Man used to dance and sacrifice to the gods in hopes of rain. Now scientists at the University of Geneva have shown that shooting laser beams might do the trick.

The Geneva team found that shooting short pulses of laser light into the air, both in the laboratory and into the skies over the Rhone River near Lake Geneva, converted particles to act as seeds that attract water droplets.

The results, published in the science journal Nature Communications, is the second successful test of the laser technique for creating clouds. Last year, the same team managed to make clouds in Berlin.

The Swiss scientists said the technique was a promising way to create rain on command, although only small clouds and no actual rain have resulted from the experiments so far.

Experiments to control rain -- by seeding the sky with compounds such as silver iodide to form water droplets -- have been around for decades. For years, the Chinese government has used weather control to bring showers to parched areas of the country and, memorably, to ensure clear skies during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.


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Photo: People walk in a flooded street in Hoboken, N.J., on Aug. 28. Credit: Kena Betancur / Reuters