Big guns bring on the rains?

73a100 years ago there was a wide spread belief that Western Front artillery bombardments encouraged rainfall. Heavy rain set in in October 1914 as the British Army raced to the sea to head off the German flanking movement at Ypres. The weather turned into one of the wettest winters ever remembered. Trenches flooded and the cold windy, rainy weather was particularly devastating for troops from the Indian Army. No amount of campaigning on the hot dusty plains of the North West Frontier could have prepared Indian soldiers for the soggy cold of a NW European winter. Heavy bombardment was thought to be the culprit, especially as the big guns could be heard in Southern England. Already in 1910 the House of Commons had requested that the Admiralty avoid gunnery practice during harvest time. However, by 1917 when the fighting reached a new intensity rainfall returned to normal levels, but the belief in the rain-making powers of heavy artillery persisted. Even today in China anti-aircraft guns are fired at clouds to prevent hailstone storms.

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