Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Calling Water In The West

There's a fascinating article in today's NYT about what happens when you mess with the environment.

In Australia, where a fence built to keep rabbits out of farmland clearly divides crops from native vegetation, scientists have observed a strange phenomenon: above the native vegetation, the sky is rich in rain-producing clouds. But the sky on the farmland side is clear.

Researchers led by Tom Lyons of Murdoch University in Australia and Udaysankar S. Nair of the University of Alabama in Huntsville have come up with three possible explanations for this difference in cloudiness.

One theory is that the dark native vegetation absorbs and releases more heat into the atmosphere than the light-colored crops. These native plants release heat that combines with water vapor from the lower atmosphere, resulting in cloud formation.

Another hypothesis is that the warmer air on the native scrubland rises, creating a vacuum in the lower atmosphere that is then filled by cooler air from cropland across the fence. As a result, clouds form on the scrubland side.

A third idea is that a high concentration of aerosols — particles suspended in the atmosphere — on the agricultural side results in small water droplets and a decrease in the probability of rainfall. On the native landscape, the concentration of aerosols is lower, translating into larger droplets and more rainfall.

My theory is that the fairies and devas of the native vegetation call the rain clouds and, when you destroy the native vegetation, you chase them away, as well. But that's probably just a more complete and complex way of saying that all of the scientists' theories probably play some role in this phenomenon without explaining the gestalt of it. This study has huge implications for issues such as biofuels (bad) and the level of sustainable human population that this planet can manage.

Of course, it's particularly ironic that rabbits were introduced to Australia by people who gave almost no thought to the unintended consequences.

Hat tip to Culture of Truth in comments at Eschaton.

Update: Aqulia ka Hecate has a post up about the relationship between magic and "natural" explanations, as well.


BlakNo1 said...


Aquila ka Hecate said...

Post synchronicity again, I see!

Our quest to find rational explanations for things is not bad.
But it's never the whole of the phenomena, either.

I think most of us find difficulty in holding more than one cause for an event in mind.
This is where we who practice magic, and practical Paganism, can start to show how it's done.
It's not either/or - it's both, or possibly more.

Terri in Joburg

Manerva said...

Wow, does that fit the bill here in SW Minnesota. I live in f'n farm country and we have no rain. We sit and watch the clouds and thunderheads well up in the sky but they go around us every time.

It's funny though because the farmers are crying & complaining yet they still are out spraying the beans for aphids, thinking that just might do the trick.

Love your blog btw!

SheWho said...

...and the mongoose was introduced to Hawaii to eat the rats. But the mongoose is active during the day and the rat at night, so the mongeese (?) ate the native birds and their eggs instead (many of which, having had no predators until that point, had laid their eggs upon the ground). Now, there are very few native birds left in Hawaii.

Except on Kaua'i, where the mongoose was never welcomed.

Anne Johnson said...

We at "The Gods Are Bored" attribute this phenomenon completely and utterly to the local gods and goddesses of aboriginal Australia. Long may they rain.