Our planet can sustain life because of water. Rainfall and other forms of water are crucial for our survival and sustenance on this planet. The absence of rain leads to devastating outcomes like drought and famine, while excess leads to tragic floods.
However, since the beginning of time, when the Earth was formed, rainfall has evolved over the years to become what we know it as today. An examination of rainfall evolution on Earth will be done in this piece, so sit back, relax, and enjoy it.
Evolution of Rainfall after Formation of the Earth
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Earth’s formation stretches back in time to 4.5 billion years. It was around that time that the Solar System came to be, and the Blue Planet was created when the force of gravity aggregated dust and swirling masses of gas to become what is now the third planet in order from the Sun.
But how did the rain come about after the formation of the Earth? This question cannot be answered without talking about how water itself appeared on the planet and how the oceans formed billions of years ago. Over long epochs following the formation of the Earth, primitive oceans formed. It is interesting to know that before the appearance of these primitive oceans, water had remained in the gaseous form for millions and millions of years.
Liquid water would not form until the temperature of the Earth cooled and fell under 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This happened about 3.8 billion years ago, and the water went through the process of condensation, became rain, and it was this rain that filled up the massive rocky basins which formed what we now know as the oceans.
Studies by scientists showed that following the Earth’s surface’s cooling to a temperature under the boiling point of water, rain formed and started to fall. During this period, rain fell for hundreds of years, filling up the hollows on the Earth’s crust, and that was how the primeval oceans came into existence. This water remains on the planet because it is kept in place by the force of gravity.
Rainfall in the Pre-Human Era
Before human beings appeared on the planet (pre-human era), the rain was falling and changing the planet’s features. The oceans kept forming, and it was from these vast aquatic bubbles that life was first created. As it was an early phase of the planet, the weather conditions then were chaotic. Precipitation could continue for hundreds of years.
That led to the formation of the oceans and extensive river systems, ravines, gorges, and other geographical features. Before humans’ appearance on the planet, life had already formed, and it continued for millions of years.
It is interesting to know that long before we started impacting the planet, the world had already been impacted, and there were remarkable changes in the planet’s vegetation, climate, and geography. This happened about 150,000 to 50,000 years ago.
Rainfall in the Pre-Historic Human Era
Scientists who focused on early human evolution believe that the first human ancestors surfaced on the planet in the period that spanned five to seven million years ago in Africa. These early humans must have been stunned by what they saw in a very active planet.
These early humans faced nonstop rains, vast forests, deep gorges, and of course, gigantic wild animals running loose all over the place. As science was not in existence the way we know it today, there was no way the early humans would have understood the formation of rain. Their focus was on gathering seeds and hunting animals to feed. Their water sources were mainly water bodies like springs, rivers and underground lakes in caves.
Rainfall in Ancient History
Fast forward epochs into the future, and we enter the phase of the ancient history of humans. During this stage, some science and humans had already even started taking records of rainfall. As expected, the climate during that time is different from what it is today.
For instance, in the initial half of the 1st Millennium, Italy was a lot wetter and colder than today; there was a lot more precipitation, especially in the south, which is now relatively dry and arid. As the climate fluctuated, humans of the ancient era took time to record everything.
During the Second Punic War, the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea were battered with massive rainstorms so relentless that they damaged the Roman Navy on two occasions. A drought was to follow in 226BCE in Italy, and it went for half a year. In Egypt, the rainfall rate reflected directly with the volume of the River Nile, which also had seasonal and devastating floods. In the Americas around 100CE, rainfall was relatively scarce, and it was news whenever rain fell.
Rainfall in the Medieval Era
Scientists have coined an interesting term to describe the climate of this time, and it is called the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). It was also called the Medieval Climatic Anomaly or Medieval Climate Optimum, and existed at a time of warming worldwide.
There was a rise in the activity of the Sun, modifications to the ocean currents, and plunging volcanic activity. It is believed that this period started around 950 AD and lasted until 1250 AD. This period was generally dry, and precipitation was lower than average with regional fluctuations.
Rainfall in Modern Age
The modern era is one that has come with a lot of advancements in science and technology. Human beings are so sophisticated today that they can manipulate the patterns of rain. An entire branch of science named meteorology is devoted to studying precipitation and other activities relating to weather and climate. As a result of this, the modern human being has a far more advanced understanding of rainfall (or precipitation) than any other generation.
Today, humans can predict rains with stunning precision and accuracy. Weather modification technologies like cloud seeding now mean that humans can artificially trigger forms of precipitation like rainfall and snow. This was possible only in the modern era dating back to the year 1891 when German-American engineer Louis Gathmann suggested making rain artificially using liquid carbon dioxide.
Rainfall in the Future
At the moment, the world is grappling with issues of global warming and climate change. As for rainfall, different parts of the world are experiencing excessive precipitation leading to devastating floods or prolonged absence of precipitation, causing drought, starvation, and even conflicts in some regions.
If the present trend of human activities (anthropogenic factors) continues, then the future of rainfall as we know it will be in jeopardy. However, the faith lies in the optimism that scientists, especially climatologists, working hand in hand worldwide, will be able to chart a path for a sustainable future that will be of immense benefit to all of humanity and the environment.