TWM

The Rainmaker [Abridged]
Thursday, 5th March 1998

NARRATOR (HAYDN GWYNNE): Witch doctors and scientists, priests and potentates, all have claimed the god-like power of controlling the elements, but none has been able to prove it. But now a Canadian scientist believes he has found the Holy Grail of weather science. In the skies over Mexico his claim is being put to the test. At stake is the reputation of a man with a single grand ambition: to make rain.

DR. GRAEME MATHER: Well it began with a fascination with aeroplanes and once you start flying aeroplanes of course you're very conscious of weather and to me the most exciting aspect of weather were thunderstorms. I was flying part-time in the summer-time to support my college education, but all the time I was flying I wanted to get inside those clouds to see what they were like. I took a degree in meteorology and my thesis supervisor advised me that the last thing I should ever do in meteorology is get into weather modification and I have ignored his advice for 40 years.

NARRATOR: The formidable challenge of modifying weather has proved to be the graveyard of ambition, but the need has never been greater. Globally 1997 was the hottest since records began and a temperature rise of 3 degrees is predicted over the next century. Global warming and population increases have led to a worldwide shortage of water. Over a billion people now live in areas of drought. The irony is that the water exists - in the atmosphere. The problem is that about 80% of the moisture stays where it is - up in the clouds.

GRAEME MATHER: We're living in a country that depends for 80 or 90% of its annual rainfall on convective clouds. In my opinion these convective clouds could be made more efficient by using weather modification, trying to produce more water from available clouds. Weather modification is going to become an important tool, a very important tool, to water users....

GRAEME MATHER: ....There's no doubt about it that water is going to become the most important resource in the 21st-century a more important resource than oil. The papermill storm was a major breakthrough. We were able to recognise the unique characteristics of this papermill storm against our previous databases of studying clouds in this region for 7 or 8 years. Remember seren, serendipity has played a part in almost any major scientific discovery. The trick is to be able to recognise it and take advantage of it and we took advantage of it and have arrived at this point and personally scientists work, can work a whole lifetime without ever achieving a breakthrough of this magnitude, so in terms of my career I'm extremely satisfied.