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Friday, November 03, 2006

Tickling clouds to capture horizontal rain

Laurisilva Tenerife

According to an article at La Opinión, the Canary Islands are to patent a system to capture horizontal rain. Yes, you may smile, the term horizontal rain still amuses me too, but it was not until I lived with the phenomenon that I understood how accurate the name is. What we are really talking about is cloud that drops so low that the rain no longer needs to "fall" to reach the ground. It is already there.

Fog is often reported on the north side of Tenerife, but again, this is seldom really fog, but clouds that have dropped to ground level. Indeed, such "fog" (really ground level cloud) played an important part in the events which led up to the collision between KLM and PanAm Boeing 747's at Los Rodeos airport back in 1977.

These mists are also what make the laurisilva - laurel cloud or rain forests - what they are. They once covered almost the whole of Europe in the Tertiary period and small portions of which remain here in the north of Tenerife and on the island of La Gomera.

The water from these brumas (mists), says the article, could help to solve multiple problems of water shortages on the islands; from water to consume in homes in rural and isolated areas, for agriculture, for reforestation, or in prevention of fires.

The idea, apparently, is simple. This water precipitates whenever it comes into contact with any object. Trees do this naturally, capturing and drawing the water into the ground. The system that translates this technologically has already been in use for eight years and has sparked interest in France and the Dominican Republic.

The Canary Island Government's vice councillor for the Environment, Milagros Luis Brito, calls the technology "tickling the clouds" and says that it is capturing up to 1,700 liters of water per day, is more ecological and uses few resources.