Think back to big firework nights such as Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve – has it often rained the following day? According to some, it has and for many the reason behind the rain isn’t merely a coincidence. They believe it is because of fireworks!
But is it true that fireworks could change the weather and make it rain? Here’s a quick look at the theories and the science behind this long-running myth.
The argument that fireworks can make it rain comes from the composition of fireworks and how these chemicals are launched in the air in large masses during big celebrations such as the Bonfire Night or the 4th of July in the US.
The main ingredient making people assume fireworks could result in rainfall is sulphur. As the fireworks explode, they create smoke in the air and this smoke contains sulphur and dioxin. Large concentrations of sulphur and dioxin are thought to cause rain.
The argument is often based on something people have experienced and who feel like the day after fireworks displays is always rainy.But could there also be some science to this?
The assumptions aren’t totally plugged out of thin air, as controlling the weather isn’t just a science fiction story these days. Scientist have been able to control the creation of rain to limited extend and some of it has been done with the help of dioxin, for instance.
Perhaps the most notorious example came during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The Chinese used cloud seeding missiles in order to clear the threat of rain before the opening ceremony. The missiles shot chemicals like dioxin and sulphur into the rain clouds to increase precipitation. The mission was a success, with the opening ceremony taking place in dry weather.
In case you are wondering why this cloud seeding isn’t more commonplace everywhere, the iodide used in the process is toxic. Large quantities result in toxic rain and most people would surely rather let it rain whenever than to poison the ground!
Nonetheless, fireworks are not found to be an actual cause for rain. The concentration of chemicals during even the busiest of firework nights alone are not enough to open the floodgates of the sky.
The problem with the argument is that fireworks won’t go high enough to introduce the particles into the clouds. For the cloud seeding to work the condensation nuclei needs to be introduced right in the middle of the clouds – the Chinese missiles seemed to have worked, although cloud seeding is typically done by dropping the iodide from the above.
So, while you probably won’t be guaranteed to need an umbrella every time you shoot fireworks, you are likely to experience a bit of smog. Jim Dale, senior meteorologist at British Weather Services gave his final verdict on the subject a few years ago, stating in an interview, “I would venture to say that lingering cloud, fog or smog is probably more likely (than rain), though it can’t necessarily be assumed”.
What do you think? Have you experienced outright rain after big parties or do you feel the air is foggier after big firework displays? Perhaps you’d like to experiment this by throwing a science night with some stunning fireworks!