BioSci

Rainmakers of Death Valley

“I always loved that hat.” said Jerry Thompkins as his baseball cap plummeted to the revitalized, geo-engineered, Lake Manly, below. Flying his mini combo plane in and out of the white cumulus mounds, Captain Thompkins last turn was a too little sharp. We caught a bad gust of wind and found ourselves in a near tailspin. 

Captain Thompkins only agreed to be interviewed while flying. So, I signed some waivers, and found myself in the passenger seat of his cloud seeding Osprey. Accepting all the risks that came along with the ride, I’ve got view of America’s geo-engineering effort to combat the Southwest’s latest drought. 

Last year at this time, from California to Texas, a new dust bowl had emerged, a ghost from the dark times of America’s pioneering past. Failed farming policies, a lack of concern for the environment allowed history to repeat itself. The country’s land of manifest destiny once again found itself on the verge of agricultural, economic, and even societal collapse. But as I am witnessing first hand, the combined governmental and private business response has indeed work a near miracle.

And Now, 1 year into the worst of the drought, California sees its citizens water skiing on Lake Manly, an ancient lake revived to levels of the Pleistocene era. 

As the pilot’s cap kept falling, I saw a speed boat whiz by, a horde of tethered water skiers slicing along the water in tow. I think they were trying to form a human pyramid.

Expertly piloting the Osprey, tilting its rotors and motors all at the right time, Captain Thompkins is no novice, in fact he’s a veteran of the Panama Canal conflict. And now, he is a highly skilled “Rainmaker”. A term the locals have given these scrappy barnstorming pilots responsible for maintaining a high level of average rainfall.

He loves his craft, explaining, “You gotta know which clouds to seed, some look more, ripe, than others.” He banked another hard turn, making a loop de loop in the sky, continuing, “My favorite thing is when I can really get it raining cats and dogs. With enough Tri-Pho-Fi 3, I can make a monsoon down there.”

When asked about the destruction and replacement of one biome with another; the previously beautiful desert-scape that was Death Valley, its lizards, exotic animals, wildflowers, and all its silent sand mysteries, Thompkins took the long view, the extremely long view. “Go ask the dinosaur Augustynolophus if he hated his homes destruction, and us mammal invaders. Anyway, all I am sayin, is things change, places change, ideas change.”

Government programs to hire private flyers have boomed lately. The Air Force, and various federal agencies could only do so much when faced with a looming disaster half a continent wide. So, the E.P.A in conjunction with the major airlines and every flying car company in the United States, have helped citizen enlistees get training and become hired weather pilots. Given temporary power to alter the landscape in drastic ways, their mission is clear. Halt, prevent, and reverse the 2nd ‘Great Dust Bowl’. 

Migration has been just one ripple effect so far. Millions of citizens have travelled to a new state, but the situation on the ground has greatly improved and many are thinking of returning. There has not been a resource riot, or any large public disturbance since the Rainmakers began their cloud seeding runs. 

“It was like once all the people got caught in a good heavy rain, the crazy washed right off. They were able to believe in the future again.” Thompkins continued on talking as we completed another circle inside this great cloud above Lake Manly. 

What started as a puffy white marshmallow, Thompkins has seeded into a silver and gray menace. Ready to rain down. The Captain has a special formula which produces more rain than any other pilot, without causing lighting, tornadoes, or other potential dangerous weather effects.

When we landed, I wished the Captain a good afternoon. He needed to make his way up North to Cleveland’s airport. Time to start the process all over again.

I ventured into a nearby Lake Manly coffee shop, Caffeine Cantina, and drank a coffee with plenty of cream and sugar as I watched the results of our work fall down on the landscape for the next 2 hours.

The amount of rain the United States government produces here makes this area wetter than Seattle. Some locals in the coffee shop could be overheard saying they wish things didn’t have to come to this, but, it’s better to be wet, than dead dry.

As of reporting, many former citizens are looking to return to their previously sun scorched homes. Programs exist to repatriate those folks back home, but the paperwork is said to be a nightmare. Some are happy to remain on the coasts, citing potential health hazards from the cloud seeded water, and its effects on the local food supply.

E.P.A officials have stated no chemicals are in overabundance. Everything falls within acceptable parameters, and considering the U.S. Southwest was almost entirely lost to a growing desert, the alternative is worse than the reality ever could be.

As I sit here, drinking my coffee, I can close my eyes and listen to the gentle rain patter on the roof, smell that fresh after the rain scent, and I could swear I was tropics. Today the future of the Southwest is blue and green, instead of rusty and red.

Photo Credits. Elliot McGucken // Animation by John Corsi

No Rain. No More.

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