(Joanne Malkus/Simpson and Abe Gagin)
A modern-day story with elements similar to that of American physicist R. W. Wood and his exposé of non-existent “N-Ray” radiation in 1904. R. W. Wood went to France to expose “N-rays” as the product of experimenter delusion at the turn of the century (Broad and Wade 1982); our protagonist1 went to Israel in 1986 to expose faulty cloud reports by possibly deluded scientists.
The underlying message in this life story chapter?
“Hold on Tight to Your Dreams“, one of the greatest-ever song messages. You just might make something out of yourself even when it appears you don’t have the grey matter to do it, as in my case (the “protagonist” in the outline below.) “EOM”–skip the rest if busy.
- A young, “weather centric” student in junior college, the protagonist in this story, meets with Prof. Joanne Malkus, a famous woman scientist and faculty member at UCLA in meteorology in 1963. He is there because her university is the only one in his state of California that offers courses leading to a degree in meteorology. She has come to his attention because she had just been named, Los Angeles Times “Woman of the Year.”
- Though he has loved clouds, weather and forecasting since he was a little kid, he tells her he is struggling in junior college with the courses that future meteorologists are required to take, ones heavy in calculus and physics, and doesn’t have the grade point average to get into UCLA from junior college. He is hoping to convince her he is worthy of a shot in their meteorology program anyway due to his enthusiasm about becoming a meteorologist.
- Malkus, after hearing about our protagonist’s poor grades in math and physics, suggests it would be best for him to give up his dream of being a meteorologist and to go into something less rigorous, perhaps “go into journalism and write about weather.”
- Eventually, and holding himself back by repeating courses in math and physics to get “C’s,” the stubborn young man becomes a meteorologist, anyway, matriculating at San Jose State College, one that starts a meteorology program a few years after his 1963 visit to UCLA.
- By chance, our protagonist eventually ends up being an expert in the same specialty as Prof. Malkus (now Joanne Simpson) whom he had met with many years earlier; rainmaking by cloud seeding and Cumulus cloud structure at the University of Washington under Prof. Peter V. Hobbs.
- Simpson is particularly enamored of the work of a leading rainmaking scientist in Israel, Prof. Abe Gagin. When Prof. Gagin passes in 1987 at the age of 54, she proclaims that, “…statues will be raised in many towns and halls of fame to his memory.” Her view about that rainmaker is shared by many others around the world.
- Through the rigorous execution of two well designed rainmaking experiments in Israel, each with similar increases in rain, in turn supported by repeated descriptions of Cumulus clouds plump with rainmaking potential, the experiments in Israel, by the 1980s, are deemed to be the one true rainmaking success in the world among all those undertaken.
- Our protagonist, who on his own initiative, has exposed mistaken or fraudulent claims of “successes” in the peer-reviewed rainmaking literature since the late 1970s, comes to doubt the validity of the published work of that very same scientist for whom “statues will be raised.”
- In the late 1970s after exposing ersatz seeding successes in Colorado and Washington State, our protagonist’s lab chief, Prof. Peter V. Hobbs, challenges our protagonist, a mere staff member in his group, to investigate the famous experiments in Israel, advising him, “if he wanted to have a greater impact” in his specialty of unraveling false cloud seeding claims.
- Our protagonist begins to do so, and supplies a list of questions, at the request of Prof. Hobbs, to ask Prof. Gagin about his experiments when Prof. Gagin reports on them at a 1980 international conference in France.
- In 1983, while Prof. Hobbs is on sabbatical in Europe, our protagonist submits a paper to a journal that asserts that the clouds in Israel are not ripe for rainmaking, but rather quite the opposite, and that too little seeding was carried out in the Israel-1 cloud seeding experiment was not enough to have affected rainfall. Israel-1 was the first of the two famous experiments.
- The paper is rejected by three of four reviewers. One of the “reject” reviewers he later learns, is Prof. Gagin himself.
- Our protagonist is undaunted by the rejection of his paper, and begins to contemplate going to Israel after he also reads about American physicist, R. W. Woods’ trip to France to expose N-Rays.
- Our protagonist resigns at the end of 1985 from the job he has loved over credit issues with Prof. Hobbs and goes to Israel on 4 January 1986.
- Prof. Hobbs is not onboard with our protagonist’s views on the clouds of Israel before he leaves. He describes our protagonist as “arrogant” for thinking he knows more about the clouds in Israel than those “who have studied them in their own backyard.”
- Our protagonist eventually exposes the famed rainmaker’s faulty work on several fronts beginning with his self-initiated and self-funded cloud investigation to Israel in 1986, a science excursion that resembles the historic trip by R. W. Wood to France. During the first storm in Israel he finds that the cloud descriptions by Prof. Gagin are, indeed, in error.
- Our protagonist is welcomed by the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) and given a tiny amount of desk space where he collects historical data concerning Israel’s clouds and rains, data that will be used in a journal paper.
- Not surprisingly, he finds that all the IMS forecasters know that it rains from clouds that are contrary to those described by Prof. Gagin’s descriptions in the journal literature. They are much shallower than those described as necessary to develop rain by Prof. Gagin, making them appear necessary for seeding to take place to make them rain.
- Following a first cordial meeting at Prof. Gagin’s office following a week of dry weather, a second meeting occurs after several days with rain. Our protagonist discusses his observations with Prof. Gagin, which are sharply at odds with his journal cloud descriptions of Israeli clouds. Gagin, understandably at the end of our protagonist’s discussion, asks him to leave and never come back; “do your own thing.”
- Despite what happened in the second meeting, a third and final meeting is arranged with Prof. Gagin on 2 February 1986. It occurs at the offices of his rainmaking headquarters on the grounds of Ben Gurion International Airport. Our protagonist asks if he can visit this headquarters to observe radar cloud top heights during storms. His request is declined by Prof. Gagin, who insists that his cloud descriptions are correct.
- In mid-February 1986 our protagonist meets with the “Chief Meteorologist” of the Israeli cloud seeding experiments, Mr. Karl Rosner. He is informed by Mr. Rosner that a large amount of data was omitted in the reporting of the 2nd “confirmatory” rainmaking experiment whose results were published in 1981. As it was published without that data, Israel-2 appeared to be a strong confirmation of the results of Israel-1 in the eyes of the world. Mr. Rosner, he tells our protagonist, is now trying to get Prof. Gagin to publish the missing data.
- The weather fails to deliver any more significant storms through 10 March, and our protagonist departs Israel after 11 weeks of cloud studies and data thanks to the IMS.
- In June 1986, in a letter to Prof. Gagin, our protagonist summarizes his cloud findings; his letter is copied to several leading scientists. In this letter, our protagonist vows that he will leave the field of meteorology altogether if his observations concerning the clouds of Israel are wrong; that high concentrations of ice crystals occur in clouds with tops >-12°C. He challenges Prof. Gagin to leave the field if he is right.
- Gagin, just 54 years old, passes in 1987 a few months after being notified in a letter by Prof. Hobbs that our protagonist’s cloud investigation has been accepted for publication in the Quart J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.
- Two journals issue separate memorial issues to Prof. Gagin’s memory in 1988 and 1989, an exceptionally rare tribute that testifies to his standing. Joanne Simpson’s testimonial to Abe Gagin is published along with several others in the 1988 issue of the J. Wea. Mod.
- The results of our protagonist’s cloud investigation are also published in 1988. It concludes that the clouds aren’t plump with cloud seeding potential as they have been repeatedly described by Prof. Gagin, but are quite the opposite of those descriptions, repeating the conclusions in his rejected 1983 journal submission to the J. Appl. Meteor. The paper questions how cloud seeding could be effective given the actual nature of Israel’s precipitating clouds.
- Like N-rays, it is eventually it is revealed in multiple reports that the clouds ripe with rainmaking potential that were described by Prof. Gagin do not exist.
- 1990: the “full” results of the Israel-2 cloud seeding experiment are reported as urged by Mr. Rosner. It is now found that the “full” Israel-2 experiment, incorporating previously omitted data, had a null result contravening the previous view of Israel-2 as unambiguous rainmaking success.
- However, it was also hypothesized in the 1990 journal article that there could have been increases and decreases in rain separately in each of the two targets in Israel-2. Thus, when these differing results were combined as the design of Israel-2 called for, they canceled each other out, thus causing the null result of the whole experiment and leaving an enigma.
- 1992: Our protagonist’s 1988 cloud reports are first corroborated in airborne measurements by Tel Aviv University scientists unaffiliated with seeding activities. The Israeli clouds, indeed, appear to have little rainmaking potential due to having high concentrations (10s to hundreds per liter) of natural ice crystals in them at cloud top temperatures >-13°C. These airborne reports are reiterated in separate publications in 1994 and in 1996. More research supporting our protagonist’s cloud investigation appears over the next 20 years.
- 1992: a journal paper by the promoters of rainmaking, one a protégé of Prof. Gagin, claim that dust interfered with Israel-2; that actual increases in rain occurred when there was no dust and decreases in rain occurred when there was dust. Thus, a “dust hypothesis” is put forth to explain possible real increases and decreases in rain that were suggested in the full result of the 2nd experiment in the north and south targets.
- Joanne Simpson, who advised our protagonist to give up the thought of being a meteorologist, finds the “dust hypothesis” highly credible. Our protagonist and Prof. Simpson are now on a collision course in opinions again.
- Our protagonist finds the 1992 dust claim ludicrous due to his 11-week cloud investigation in Israel in 1986. He decides that something must be done about the dust claim. He begins working at home on his own time in 1992 on the daunting task of reanalyzing Israel-1 and Israel-2.
- Our protagonist’s reanalyses of the two statistical experiments in Israel are published in 1995 in the J. Appl. Meteor. Prof. Hobbs is a co-author. The reanalyses conclude that rainmaking activities did not increase rain in either Israel-1 or in Israel-2. The clouds are also shown to form precipitation rapidly, leaving little opportunity for rainmaking.
- 1997: Critical commentaries of the 1995 paper are published. The number of pages of criticism of the 1995 paper sets a record for the pages of “Comments” on a paper ever published in an Amer. Meteor Soc. journal. An ox has been gored. In effect, our protagonist and Prof. Hobbs have become the most “criticized” meteorologists in the history of the Amer. Meteor. Soc.
- However, the 1995 reanalyses and the 1997 journal exchanges trigger the first major independent review of rainmaking in Israel by the Israel National Water Authority (INWA). This organization had previously relied on the reports of the rainmaking promoters and other rainmaking partisans that rainmaking was working to increase runoff into the country’s largest freshwater lake, the Sea of Galilee, aka, Lake Kinneret.
- 1998: The results of 19 winter seasons of randomized cloud seeding in Israel-3 in the southern part of Israel are reported. There has been no effect on rainfall due to seeding. The results again indicate that the clouds of Israel are unsuitable for cloud seeding.
- 2006: After several years of study, the independent Israeli review panel reports that they can find no viable evidence that rainfall has been increased in 27 years of rainmaking (1975-2002) targeting the Sea of Galilee watersheds.
- The independent panel’s finding corroborates the conclusions in the 1995 reanalyses by our protagonist and Prof. Hobbs, and supports the findings of our protagonist’s cloud investigation published in 1988: the clouds in Israel are not viable for rainmaking.
- Once again, this rainmaking story seems to have reached a conclusion when rainmaking is terminated in 2007 or 2013. But it is not so.
- The promoters of rainmaking in Israel argue that air pollution has suddenly canceled increases in rain due to rainmaking activities during the last decade of the program . They argue that the review panel’s findings of no viable increases in rain are faulty because they do not include air pollution effects.
- The independent review panel, and several other scientists in Israel find the air pollution argument by the promoters of rainmaking unconvincing and cloud seeding of the Sea of Galilee watersheds does not resume.
- In 2010 Tel Aviv University scientists find that the supposed rain increases in the Israel-2’s north target days lacking in “dust,” were bogus. The seeding partisans had been misled in their conclusion because stronger storms happened on days when rainmaking took place in the “dust-free” target.
- Once again, the story seems to have reached a conclusion in 2010 due to the new independent reanalysis described above. But again, it is not so.
- 2012: The Israel National Water Authority is convinced to try once again to see if rain can be increased by cloud seeding in a new, sophisticated, randomized experiment, Israel-4. This time the experiment targets the mountainous, northern extremity of Israel.
- The conduct of a new experiment is supported by airborne reports by the rainmaking partisans who conclude that the clouds have a lot of rainmaking potential in northern Israel.
- Importantly, instead of being carried out by seeding partisans, the new experiment is carried out by independent Israeli scientists.
- Israel-4 ends in 2020 after seven winter seasons. There is no indication that a viable amount of rain has been increased by rainmaking. The official null “primary” result has since been published by Benjamini et al. 2023, J. Appl. Meteor.
- This result of Israel-4 parallels the several prior conclusions by external skeptics concerning all the rainmaking activities in Israel, including those by our protagonist and Prof. Hobbs concerning Israel-1 and -2.
- The null results of Israel-4 experiment also reiterate those of our protagonist in 1988 concerning the clouds of Israel; they are not conducive to rainmaking.
- This time, in 2023, our “story” finally seems to have reached an end.
- But how can the “story” end? Think of the courage it would take for those who promoted seeding in Israel for so many decades and who have cost their own country so much in wasted seeding programs to walk away from repeated faulty analyses and descriptions of non-existent, ripe for seeding clouds? They won’t. Count on it!
1Art and Prof. Peter V. Hobbs, the Director of his group, were honored by the UN partly for the work reported here. The 2005 monetary prize was adjudicated by the World Meteorological Organization.
If anyone has gotten this far, you can go even deeper in these posts: