Hail Cannons

Farmers are spending $50,000 to $70,000 each for cannons to control their hail

If you think hail cannons are some mad scientist invention, think again. Farmers are investing heavily in this technology, a technology that many believe has yet to prove itself. (Pics)

 Hail Cannons - A Growing Industry

Hail cannons date back into the 18th century

While the history of hail cannons date back into the 18th century, the modern hail cannon has been developed extensively over the last 30 years with most development in the last 10 years.

The protected area for an individual machine is said to be approximately a 500 meter radius with a lower level of effectiveness as distance from the device increases.

Hail Cannons - A Growing Industry

John Diepersloot believes in fighting mother nature with hail cannons

Farmers have long clamored for technology that helps them deal with nature’s whims. Though scientists say no significant study has proven the devices’ effectiveness, a small group of farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and across the country are putting faith — and thousands of dollars — into hail cannons.

“The first year I had them, there was a storm where I saw my neighbor’s fields had damage and I didn’t,” said Diepersloot, who has bought 24 cannons to use throughout his 1,200-acre farm.


Hail Cannons - A Growing Industry

John Diepersloot bought 24 cannons to use on his farm

With the 2007 storm season approaching, Diepersloot’s workers prepare to wage war on the weather. The huge, cone-shaped machines click on automatically when a Doppler radar signal senses a storm is on the horizon. Within seconds, they emit a deafening, electronic blast, repeated every six seconds.

As the sound waves rise from the cannon and ripple into the sky, they disrupt airborne water droplets poised to become hail stones, and instead cause the water to fall as rain or slush, the cannon’s manufacturers say.

But scientists dispute their claims.


Hail Cannons - A Growing Industry

Some think hail cannons are a thing of beauty


“It’d have to be something pretty major to upset hail,” said Charles Knight, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a Boulder, Colo.-based non-profit. “If you exploded an atomic bomb in a cloud, that might do something.”

At $50,000 to $70,000 each, the cannons aren’t a cheap fix. But losses from hail storms can be even more costly.

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Hail storms don’t kill the fruit itself, but they take an economic toll. Blemished fruit usually fetches about 60% of an unmarked crop’s value, farmers said, and sometimes, pockmarked fruit cannot be sold at all.

“In the past, the only way to deal with hail was to have insurance, but that got too expensive,” Diepersloot said. “No one wants scarred fruit.”


Hail Cannons - A Growing Industry

Others believe its just a way of talking to God

In the past decade, farmers in Colorado, Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio have bought the machines.

The cannons are just one of many devices farmers employ to try to alter nature’s course.


Hail Cannons - A Growing Industry

Hidden neatly behind a bail stack, this hail cannon is
prepared to lurch into the open once hail clouds appear

Via USA Today