December 22nd, 2006

krazy koati

Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place

[ Editorial Note: I'm sorry to post this early, but I'm going to be in a hotel tonight, and I don't know what the Internet connectivity is going to be like. (Travel review web sites and the desk clerk give different answers.) I'd rather postdate an entry than miss one entirely, which shows you the sort of compulsions I have. I hope I haven't shattered the illusion that I write these things in the nine minutes just after midnight. ]

What is rain? Where does rain come from? Do you know your hair looks like that? Where does rain go? What is rain good for? These are some of the questions sent to the World Metrological Association daily, and they're tired of it, because the questions are clearly intended for the World Meteorological Association, a completely different group. The Metrological Association is all about ways to measure things, not the weather. I'd like to answer some of those questions to reduce friction between the groups. I know about my hair and can't help it.

Rain is a plant growth natural to certain clouds. These growths can be easily spotted as they give the cloud a bright, white appearance, in contrast to the natural colors of an un-inhabited clouds, which are sky blue underneath and green-brown from above. The growth of rain layers on clouds ruins their natural excellent camouflage, leaving them open to predatory birds and interceptor airplanes. Often inhabited clouds will huddle together in the hopes that by mass they can confuse an attacker, which doesn't work, but no one tells the clouds as they think they're very clever to have started gathering and it would break their hearts to know otherwise. When clouds gather closely enough, they jostle one another, causing the roots of the rain to shear off, which leave patches of the rain nothing to do but fall. One or two clouds bumping together results in sun showers; if you get a herd of clouds to stampede you can have a fine monsoon. Remarkably, rain's closest evolutionary cousin is neither snow nor hail -- most people's guesses -- but rather the sea sponge. We're still trying to figure out how that could be. Maybe we wrote it down wrong.

Raindrops as observed when they hit the ground are the seeds of rain plants or trees and are wrapped in a bubble of water provided as a ``bribe'' to animals to consume and distribute the seeds, which get back into the air somehow (maybe even by tiny helicopters) and find new clouds to grow on. Thus, to the surprise of many at the World Metrological Association, raindrops are technically fruit. Raindrop preserves and raindrop jams were staple parts of the diet for thousands of years until the discovery of chocolate; now the only popular survivor of that heritage is soup, a form of raindrop custard.

Clouds have been harvested for their raindrop production since Babylonian times, although the difficulty in getting clouds to not freely range and to respect boundaries has limited their value as a cash crop, a term which originated as a pun for a ``cash drop'', as in raindrop. It was not until 1974 that Benjamin Franklin -- who snuck out of the 18th century during a dull stretch, and had to get back the moment he was noticed -- published a basic way to brand clouds, and experts feel the process is still not perfected. With the 1873 breeding by Louis Pasteur of a seedless rain drop -- he was working on a ``cloud of revenge'' out of bitterness regarding France's loss of the Alsace and Lorraine provinces to Germany in the recent war -- a new and highly popular kind of rain with no hard center was introduced. It has become the expected kind of rain despite the vast and low (but steady, almost nagging) return investment needed to graft new rain onto old clouds.

What does the future hold for rain? It faces tough competition from sources like snow, pleasantly warm days, and bags of money falling from the sky, but it has a substantial and loyal base of customers who wouldn't go anywhere else, except when the bags of money are falling because those are quite heavy and will hurt on impact unless you hide. A research team at the Indian Institute of Technology has reported some success breeding a new, smaller, faster-growing sort of rain which could be useful for drought-stricken regions, but they will need to solve the problem of the peculiar aerodynamic properties of the New Rain making it seem to scream as it falls. For me, I'll try to talk with my barber.

Trivia: A flood destroyed London Bridge in 1090. Source: London: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd.

Currently Reading: Astounding Days, Arthur C Clarke.