How do tribesmen smell

Weather - why does it always have to be sunny? - A tribute to the rain

Why does it always have to be sunny? - A tribute to the rain

In the past, people were happy about a downpour. Today we complain about it. A tribute to the rain.

In the nineties, when people still watched private TV due to the lack of Netflix, one could see weather reports on the news that promised astonishingly much sun. A good mood was the order of the day, good weather was simply prescribed. That is why it was customary to let a sun peek out from behind even the thickest rain cloud symbol, even if it should pour through the whole day. The weather report should please people, not spoil the next day.

However, a weather symbol still creates a bad mood today: a dark cloud from which thick droplets fall. When it rains, it is almost mandatory for meteorologists to apologize for the bad weather. As if rain were a disease to protect yourself from. And this is how the presentations sound like: Warning, precipitation: continuous rain endangers the weekend. Just stay at home. It seems like the whole country is suffering from ombrophobia. The fear of rain.

Since when has the rain had this image problem? Up until industrialization, people weren't afraid of rainy days - but they were afraid that they might not. Excessive fine weather meant drought and threatened crop failures. Even such a bad harvest often resulted in hunger, several in a row usually death.

The drought is our enemy

For the first civilizations, rain was a basis of their existence. With the fertile monsoons, the Indus culture flourished as early as the Early Bronze Age, but around 4100 years ago the rainy season suddenly stopped. Drought ruled for decades, 1800 BC, one of the world's first urban civilizations ended. This shows that drought, not rain, is the real enemy of humanity - even in our highly technological times. Today, water shortages threaten numerous regions of the world, and climate change is exacerbating the problem. One of the worst documented drought disasters cost the lives of six million people in India in 1876/77. Because unlike hurricanes like those recently struck the Caribbean, or like a severe earthquake, the drought kills in slow motion. She is a “silent killer”, a force of nature that creeps up on you. If it becomes noticeable, it is usually too late.

With these issues in mind, moaning about a wet cucumber summer is a joke. In our part of the world there is hardly a month in which there is not a dip in Central Europe. But while heavy rain falls more and more frequently in a warmer world, land rain falls. But that's only where the problems begin, as the past few years have shown: In some regions, water is becoming increasingly scarce. Rain falls less often and more unpredictably, and northern Switzerland has been experiencing an exceptional drought for months.

Child sacrifices and rain prayers

Thanks to clever water management, however, nobody in Central Europe has to fear catastrophic drought today. It was different in antiquity: world history is full of cultures that have suffered drought or perished. One only needs to think of the seven lean years of Egypt, of which the biblical story of Joseph tells. At the end of their classical era in the ninth century, the Maya suffered from severe rainfall. Then their decline began.

The dependence on the higher power of dark rain clouds has left spiritual traces. Rain was feared, pleaded and prayed for. The Sumerians already worshiped a rain god called Ishkur, whom Akkadians and Babylonians also worshiped. In ancient Greece the "cloud collector" Zeus, as Homer calls him, was also responsible for rain; for the Romans he was Jupiter Pluvius. In addition to the ubiquitous rain dance, numerous unorthodox efforts to solicit water from above have been handed down from some cultures. For example, sending naked women into the fields to call on the gods with obscene songs.

If there was no rain, farmers would persuade their wives to have sex in the fields. Among the Aborigines, on the other hand, it was customary to draw blood from selected tribesmen and sprinkle it on the men of the tribe. Those who took part in this ceremony then had to remain sexually abstinent until the first raindrop fell. The most horrific rituals go back to the Aztecs. They sacrificed their children to the rain god Tlaloc.

But the monotheistic religions also know the supplication for prosperous weather. Jews ask for a good harvest at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. In Islam, it was the Prophet Mohammed himself who, during a dry season, said a rain prayer with open arms skyward. And in Texas and California, Christians prayed for rain a few years ago when a historic drought turned the states into a dusty desert.

From a scientific point of view, the water from the sky is one of the phenomena that - at least in our solar system - is unique to our earth. In the earth's water cycle, liquid water evaporates, rises as steam, can be carried around the earth and in this way reaches even remote areas of land. The details of this process are still not fully understood, especially when it comes to cloud formation. Atmospheric physicists are now trying to ventilate this in artificial cloud chambers.

No desire for a rainy vacation

Rain only became a nuisance with industrialization, which, together with the hard work, gave people the breaks from the same, the leisure time. Before that, there was no time in the agricultural community for barbecues or days at the lake. And the farmer was happy when it rained enough. Today, however, there is a dictation of the sun. It is said that summer in particular has to be savored. And with the temperature, the range of leisure activities increases - and with it the stress. For this reason alone, it is worth finally learning to love autumn and winter. Nothing calls outside.

Maybe rain is best when you can smell it. Water molecules alone have no odor, but when they hit the ground they swirl up other molecules. The slightly musty smell of warm summer rain is due to geosmin, the metabolic product of a bacterium. It is it that gives the beds their earthy smell. In northern India, where the country emaciated from the heat longs for the monsoon every early summer, this scent is sold as a perfume: Mitti attar - scent of rain.

There is nowhere better to test how the fragrance smells than in Cherrapunji. The small town is located in the remote Khasi Mountains of the east Indian state of Meghalaya. Cherrapunji is considered to be the wettest place on earth. When the British installed a weather station there, they reckoned with large quantities, but not with the 9,300 liters per square meter that rained down in July 1861. The monsoons were particularly pronounced at the time, with a total of an unbelievable 26,461 liters of water per square meter in one year. The city of Cherrapunji is proud of its record. Maybe you have to travel there to learn to love the rain.