A benign alternative to Geoengineering
An overlooked natural mechanism to make it rain in 21 days.
Geoengineering, its supporters believe, is the last option to reduce the global warming impact. It is supposed to work by shielding the planet from solar radiation. However, it has number of drawbacks including the high cost and unpredictability. Thick rain bearing clouds, on the other hand, could be a benign alternative if only one could create it. As droughts are occurring in many places, it could also be useful to provoke precipitation which eliminates shortages of fresh water. So, the question is, can scientific advances bring us rainfall?
Since ancient times, historians knew that wars bring rainfall. Plutarch (45–120) said ‘it is observed indeed that extraordinary rains generally fall after great battles’.¹ Books²’³ and articles⁴¨⁶ have been written about this curious behavior of weather, called here “Plutarch’s Phenomenon”. It was recognized that if Plutarch’s Phenomenon was understood and exploited correctly, humanity would thrive on unlimited fresh water supply. Various explanations have been proposed for the battle-rain causation such as loud sounds (concussions of cannonading), heat from battle, smoke from gun powder but, experiments conducted in 1800s proved inconclusive.⁴
The critics of concussions theory proposed that rain could be induced by the smoke particles from the gun powder.⁴ Today, cloud seeding with some chemicals, like silver iodate, showed somewhat better results if the right conditions are met such as the availability of suitable clouds.⁷ However, battle days were not scheduled according to weather for obvious reasons like absence of weather forecast at the time. Furthermore, one needs to remind oneself that chemicals like explosives were used quite rarely in battles during Plutarch time.
One of the critics of Plutarch’s Phenomenon reviewed the historical battles and the meteorological records of the early 1900s and they found no correlation between the battle followed by rainfall events up to 10 days.⁵’⁶ Moreover, the same authors stated that it is something to do with “mental processes”, that is, people imagined “unusual weather”.⁵
Here, with some more accumulated historic records and advances in science, a more plausible explanation is given for the curious battle-rain relationship.
The common denominator for the rain causing battles is the mass movement of cavalries over large territories. Indeed, rainfalls occur not only after big battles, but it turns out, it rains after ungulate (hooved animals) mass movement too, for example, during culling programs of feral animals like horses and camel in Australia (Fig.1). Strikingly, the anomalous precipitation peaks of Australia correspond to the culling time periods of feral grazing animals.
The greening miracle of Australia in 2011⁸’⁹ was preceded by severe droughts. During the Millennium Drought of 2001–2009, feral camels were competing for vital water sources. Finally, the Australian government decided to intervene with a four-year culling program at the end of 2009.¹⁰ Record-breaking rains followed in 2010 and 2011 and Australian arid and semi-arid areas reported to absorb 0.9 Gt of carbon in 2011.⁸ Precipitation went into decline in 2012 and 2013 as did the population of camels. 162,810 camels were removed at the end of this four-year culling program.¹⁰ Then drought came back, and lush green grasslands turned back to arid red barren land.
Similarly, the anomalous precipitation time periods in arid areas of Southwestern States of US matchs with the dates of wild horse removal programs of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of USA (see Annex, for details).
But how is animal movement causing these heavy rainfalls?
From the observations of recent culling programs in Australia¹¹’¹² and horse removal programs in Nevada, USA¹³, it was systematically observed that rainfalls arrive in 3 to 4 weeks after the onset of the animal movements.
The regenerative grazing method discovered by Alan Savory shows that hooves and manure of cattle are important in enriching soil by microbiome.¹⁴ Essentially, this method mimics a natural ungulate mass migration. It showed repeatedly that greening takes place on the applied arid areas. The Plutarch’s Precipitation Phenomenon and Savory’s “Greening” Phenomenon could be the sides of the same coin.
Now, we have all the main pieces of the puzzle: Large arid areas, tramped by hooved animals in large quantities, then rain appearing in 3–4 weeks, and finally soil enriched with microbiome. Considering the main pieces of the puzzle with some more pieces below, we can infer that the main suspect of the Plutarch’s Precipitation Phenomenon is fungi from the ungulate microbiome, because:
a) The time difference between ungulate mass movement and subsequent rainfall (3 to 4 weeks) corresponds to a typical mycelium inoculation period. It was showed that fungi spores can trigger rainfall.¹⁵ However, the suggestion that rainfall induced by spores is too simplistic to explain the whole picture because it does not address the highly dynamic atmospheric processes culminated by thunderstorms which are extremely complex phenomenon by itself.
b) There are no studies linking mycelial network to thunderstorms, however the lightning map taken by NASA satellites¹⁶ (Fig 2), show us a little hint that lightning occurring locations roughly correspond to typical fungi occurring locations. 90% of lightning takes place above land, but they are rare in arid areas like the Sahara, Chilian deserts, Australian arid areas, or Eurasian deserts. However, lightning was much more frequent in the Sahara when it was green during the African Humid Period.¹⁷ In folklore, fungi is also often associated with thunderstorms.¹⁸
Fig 2. Lightning map by NASA.¹⁶
c) Many species of fungi respond to electric fields¹⁹; they also can generate pulses in 0.5–10 Hz range.²⁰ Coincidingly, ULF waves of the same frequency range, known as pulsation Pc1, are generated by thunderstorms.²¹ The lengths of ULF waves are in the range of thousands of kilometers. An effective ULF antenna must be in that range too.²²
So, the speculation goes, when mycelia grow together, they could sync in and act like giant mycelium electric network which could sense electromagnetic processes in atmosphere and probably influence them. We must find out how exactly it is doing what it is doing.
d) It is known that fungi are opportunistic species, controlling behaviors of other species. They could have figured out weather processes too. Mycelial networks are considered to have a non-neural network intelligence, so-called liquid brain as opposed to a solid brain of Neural Networks.²²’²⁴
So, we should not deny the possibility that fungi could have some computational power to figure out atmospheric processes, especially if you take into account they have billion years of evolution behind them.
In any case, the Plutarch Phenomenon holds true whatever the speculation is. The mission of the research is to find out what are the processes behind this regulatory mechanism of Nature.
From the observations of horse removal programs in Nevada¹³ and ungulate culling programs of Australia, it seems that the quantity of precipitations which followed in a given area were proportional to the quantity of ungulates moved over that area (see Annex). For an experiment, at least 1000 ungulates moving over area of about 5000 km² is needed to trigger precipitations. To avoid ambiguities in precipitation results, arid areas need to be chosen.
As an experiment, an equine march could be carried out with subsequent continuous measurements of various physical properties of soil and atmosphere for one month to find out what is going on from the start of ungulate movement to the subsequent rainfall which normally should be observed in 3–4 weeks.
One must be warned, however, that large quantity of ungulates could bring catastrophic floods as it was the case in the beginning of American Civil War in 1861. The onset of the cavalry gathering brought subsequent Great flood that began at the end of 1861.
For each case of anomalous precipitation events in the recorded history, one can find a corresponding mass movement event of grazing animals taken place 3–4 weeks earlier. Not only cavalry battles and culling programs but also other animal movements like mass movements during agricultural reforms, or movements because of the increase in beef prices etc. seem to trigger precipitations (see Annex).
The knowledge about flood and its cause is a particularly important message. Our ancestors might have known this phenomenon, and they might have tried to pass the message through generations as flood myths of ancient narratives where they mention large quantity of cattle, livestock moving to one place and forthcoming floods.
In conclusion, Nature might have evolved a mechanism against climate change. Ungulate mass movement and subsequent precipitations are linked by yet to be explained processes. The quantity of precipitation is proportional to the quantity of ungulates on a given area. If this hypothesis is proven and applied in moderation, it could help to avoid droughts and floods in arid areas. Thick rain bearing clouds could also shield the Earth from solar radiation reducing the global temperature. Most importantly, it could help to turn all the arid areas and deserts of Earth into carbon capturing grasslands with the amount of carbon stored in the soil in the range of gigatons.⁸’⁹
Annex is found at the following link
This is a research proposal to respond officially to Plutarch’s 2000 year old “puzzle”.
Initially the pattern was 3–4 weeks, because of the winter events taking a little bit more time. Then, I used 22 days to be “safe”. Finally, I am using “21 days pattern" in summer time because of mycology articles statements of mycelium network developement taking place in 21 days in laboratory conditions.
Thank you for reading this article. Our future will be brighter if we tackle this problem asap. After having done this, hopefully, we could move to another challenges like building city/spaceport — The Tower of Bable 2.0.
¹ Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 2 by Plutarch: 9780375756771 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books. PenguinRandomhouse.com.
² Powers, E. War and the Weather: Or, The Artificial Production of Rain. (S. C. Griggs, 1871).
³ FLEMING, J. R. Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control. (Columbia University Press, 2010).
⁴ Dyrenforth, R. G. & Newcomb, S. Can We Make It Rain? North Am. Rev. 153, 385–404 (1891).
⁵ Campbell, W. W. THE WAR AND THE WEATHER. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pac. 29, 200 (1917).
⁶ Hawke, E. L. Rainfall and Gunfire. Nature 99, 467–468 (1917).
⁷ Bruintjes, R. T. A Review of Cloud Seeding Experiments to Enhance Precipitation and Some New Prospects. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 80, 805–820 (1999).
⁸ Le Quéré, C. et al. The global carbon budget 1959–2011. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 5, 165–185 (2013).
⁹ Ma, X. et al. Drought rapidly diminishes the large net CO 2 uptake in 2011 over semi-arid Australia. Sci. Rep. 6, 37747 (2016).
¹⁰ Managing the impacts of feral camel across remote Australia: Final report of the Australian Feral Camel Management Project. Ninti One https://www.nintione.com.au/resources/nol/managing-the-impacts-of-feral-camel-across-remote-australia-final-report-of-the-australian-feral-camel-management-project/.
¹¹ Feral camel ‘plague’ sees pastoralists shoot 2,500 camels in a month. https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-01-24/feral-camels-cause-chaos-as-pastoralists-shoot-thousands/10737400 (2019).
¹² 5,000 feral camels culled in drought-hit Australia. https://phys.org/news/2020-01-feral-camels-culled-drought-hit-australia.html.
¹³ Programs: Wild Horse and Burro: Herd Management: Gathers and Removals: Nevada | Bureau of Land Management. https://www.blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro/herd-management/gathers-and-removals/nevada.
¹⁴ How Cows Could Repair the World: Allan Savory at TED. National Geographic Society Newsroom https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2013/03/06/how-cows-could-repair-the-world-allan-savory-at-ted/ (2013).
¹⁵ Hassett, M. O., Fischer, M. W. F. & Money, N. P. Mushrooms as Rainmakers: How Spores Act as Nuclei for Raindrops. PLOS ONE 10, e0140407 (2015).
¹⁶ SVS, N. SVS: Global Lightning Flash Rate Density (WMS). https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/3144 (2005).
¹⁷ Sponholz, B., Baumhauer, R. & Felix-Henningsen, P. Fulgurites in the southern Central Sahara, Republic of Niger and their palaeoenvironmental significance. The Holocene 3, 97–104 (1993).
¹⁸ BLUST, R. Rat Ears, Tree Ears, Ghost Ears and Thunder Ears in Austronesian Languages. Bijdr. Tot Taal- Land- En Volkenkd. 156, 687–706 (2000).
¹⁹ Adamatzky, A. On spiking behaviour of oyster fungi Pleurotus djamor. Sci. Rep. 8, 7873 (2018).
²⁰ Olsson, S. & Hansson, B. S. Action potential-like activity found in fungal mycelia is sensitive to stimulation. Naturwissenschaften 82, 30–31 (1995).
²¹ Fraser-Smith, A. C. & Kjono, S. N. The ULF magnetic fields generated by thunderstorms: A source of ULF geomagnetic pulsations? Radio Sci. 49, 1162–1170 (2014).
²² Friis, H. T. A Note on a Simple Transmission Formula. Proc. IRE 34, 254–256 (1946).
²³ Fukasawa, Y., Savoury, M. & Boddy, L. Ecological memory and relocation decisions in fungal mycelial networks: responses to quantity and location of new resources. ISME J. 14, 380–388 (2020).
²⁴ Solé, R., Moses, M. & Forrest, S. Liquid brains, solid brains. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 374, 20190040 (2019).