Mexican farmers say Volkswagen’s hail-stopping cannons prevent rain. Evidence says they don’t even prevent hail.
A Volkswagen factory in Mexico has been receiving complaints from farmers that it’s been altering the weather and ruining their crops. In response, the factory has decided to shut down its weather machine.
One of the many problems plaguing auto manufacturers is hail, which can ruin otherwise perfect cars before they’ve even left the factory. Automakers often employ some kind of tarp or netting to protect the cars, but Volkswagen’s Mexico factory took a different route, building multiple hail cannons to ward off bad weather.
The concept of a hail cannon dates back to the late 19th century, and the design has changed little since then. A typical hail cannon looks like an upward-facing megaphone, and an explosion inside sends a shockwave into the atmosphere. In theory, that shockwave is supposed to disrupt hail formation.
A group of farmers near the factory, however, are claiming that the factory’s hail cannons are preventing all kinds of inclement weather, triggering a long drought that has ruined their crops. In response, Volkswagen has switched its cannons out of their automatic setting and has switched to a mesh netting to protect its cars, combined with running the cannons on an infrequent basis.
At this point, it’s worth pointing out that hail cannons have never been proven to work. Observably, the shockwaves they produce only travel a few hundred feet into the air, nowhere near even the lowest clouds. Even if those shockwaves reached high enough, there’s no scientific proof to suggest that pressurized air would stop hailstones from forming or falling. It took less than a decade after the cannons’ invention in Italy for scientists and the Italian government to conclude the devices were useless.
Given that hail cannons have never been proven to be effective at preventing hail, it’s tough to believe they could have caused a full-scale drought. Instead, a more likely culprit is global climate change, which has been causing droughts and heatwaves in many parts of the world this year. That being the case, Volkswagen is almost certainly innocent of disrupting those farmers’ livelihoods, but not with the cannons.
Source: Financial Times
Previously published by: Popular Mechanics USA