The Dust Bowl Skyscrapers That Were Supposed to Make It Rain

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was vicious. Crops were ravaged, dust clouds darkened the sky, and thousands fled the Great Plains to look for work elsewhere. But one meteorologist in France had an idea that very much appealed to the parched farmers and ranchers of yesteryear — enormous weather-manipulation towers that would dwarf the Empire State Building.

The Dust Bowl Skyscrapers That Were Supposed to Make It Rain

The October 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics took an illustrated look at a proposal by one Bernard Dubos, who thought that his system might provide some much needed rain, more or less on demand. The process was supposed to work by drawing warm water at a pumping station at ground level into the hollow, Bugle-shaped concrete and steel tower. The rising air in the tower would be cooled and produce condensation.

But this rain wasn't going to come cheap. Dubos predicted that his rain towers would cost about $10 million each. Or about $135.6 million, adjusted for inflation.

From the magazine:

A French meterologist, Bernard Dubos, proposes to produce rain by lending Nature a hand; in other words, helping her to carry out her routine process of drawing heated, water-laden air from the surface of the earth, and cooling it (by expansion into thinner atmosphere) until the water comes down again.

His project, illustrated here, is to put up stupendous towers of concrete, hollow within, which will create drafts in the same manner as a factory chimney. The ascending air column will carry water up with it, as vapor; and whirling vanes will distribute it in all directions. By this means, M. Dubos believes, the natural moisture of the air can be readily increased. Such a tower, steel reenforced, and two-thirds higher than the Empire State Building, would cost about $10,000,000, it is estimated, and be of great scientific as well as climatic value.

Needless to say, the Dubos rain towers were never built. Which may be just as well; the Dust Bowl was awful, but at least there was no Mud Bowl to have to clean up after.

The Dust Bowl Skyscrapers That Were Supposed to Make It Rain

Images: scanned from the October 1935 Everyday Science and Mechanics and Library of Congress