From Romanian ceremonies known as paparuda and caloian, to practices of the native American tribe the Zuni, based in western New Mexico, indigenous cultures worldwide have ritualised practices to create rainfall. With increasing dominance of scientific understandings of climate systems, such traditions were disregarded, culminating in the twentieth century dismissal of those promising the ability to bring rain to the dust bowl drought of the American West and Midwest in the 1930s as preying on ‘superstition’.
The belief that social forces such as ritual rain dances can affect the severity and frequency of rainfall has, in the Anthropocene, collided with the new knowledge that widespread anthropogenic global warming is now known to be redistributing and intensifying rain by the collective human action of warming the atmosphere; “Warmer air can...be expected to enhance precipitation extremes as it can hold more moisture.”1 However, as with all extreme weather events, rain-making in any particular instance cannot be conclusively attributed but rather deemed to be of increased statistical likelihood, for example: the number of record-breaking rainfall events has increased since the 1980s. In 2010 one in five new rainfall records would not have happened without long-term climate change. Regionally there are higher probabilities, for example in Southeast Asia the risk of observing a new record rainfall has doubled.2
Image: Kai Kornhuber, Central Valley, California, USA
1. Dim Coumou and Stefan Rahmstorf, ‘A decade of weather ex- tremes’, Nature Climate Change 2, 2012, 491–496, doi:10.1038/ncli- mate1452
2. Jascha Lehmann, Dim Coumou and Katja Frieler, ‘Increased recordbreaking precipitation events under global warming’, Climatic Change, 2015, 132:4, 501–515, doi:10.1007/s10584-015-1434-y