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Background: I have a story in the works that stars mages who can generate and channel electricity through certain fantastical organs in their bodies. I'm still working on the hand-wavium biological logistics and functional details, but I don't THINK that's necessary to answer this question (I'm still new to Stack Exchange).

The setting is technologically roughly equivalent to the early 1700s in Europe, so electricity hasn't been "discovered" yet by muggles and the mages don't know the science or physics behind what they are doing. To us it is electricity, to them it is magic. The world exits in a coastal city on an island

I have a plot element I would love to include that involves the Big Bad (a mage) demonstrating powers previously unknown in my world by creating a showy rainstorm during a drought in order to shock and awe and gain followers for his cause.

Question: Is it plausible that my mage could make it rain using ions created by electricity?

I have read some articles about ionized air/rain experiments currently being doing near Abu Dabi and although they haven't been proven to cause rain I'm hoping that it's at least plausible enough to keep the plot element instead of tossing it out with all my other plot bunnies :)

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm guessing that if a scientific community with powerful state of the art equipment can't do it, a mage can't either. It is also dubious what is claimed in the articles I read. Basically getting moisture in the air to form earlier through ionisation. But that means that even if it works you're dependent on the weather itself for the right atmosphere and wind direction. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Feb 5, 2021 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ I think anything can be possible since we are Worldbuilding, but if you want something more realistic I suggest you include the tag science-based to your question $\endgroup$
    – Archerspk
    Feb 5, 2021 at 14:22

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An indirect way would be to use the electric power to seed clouds.

Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that aims to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud. Its effectiveness is debated; some studies have suggested that it is "difficult to show clearly that cloud seeding has a very large effect". The usual objective is to increase precipitation (rain or snow), either for its own sake or to prevent precipitation from occurring in days afterward.

In this case your mage would use electrostatic charges to lift up a lot of dust and use the dust to seed clouds, acting as condensation nuclei for the rain.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! This is helpful. I had originally passed over cloud seeding because I thought it had to be done from the air and there is no flight capabilities in my world, but using static to seed from the ground could work. $\endgroup$
    – CemHill
    Feb 5, 2021 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @CemHill, you can also upvote together with thanks ;) $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 5, 2021 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ Right! Just did :) I'm still new to the site haha $\endgroup$
    – CemHill
    Feb 6, 2021 at 11:53
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Yes. But after you've watched how it was created, the rain will be anti-climatic

First a direct "brute force" way of doing it.

It takes a few steps, and making it rain is the least impressive part, and it uses a tonne of power (Like - 2020 entire Earth full years power generation levels). Best done on an overcast day with steady prevailing winds.

  • Walk upwind of the place you want the rain to come.
  • Get yourself off the ground, with lots of insulation between you and the ground.
  • Generate a high voltage (relative to ground) using handwavium.
  • And then keep going up to tesla coil voltages.
  • And then keep going up to ludicrous levels. Supervillain levels. Mad scientist levels.
    • Air will spark at about 30,000 volts per centimeter, and when that happens, current flows.
    • When current flows, air heats up. Your trying to make an volume of airs that's incredibly hot.
    • Try to make it hot a bit up in the sky, rather than at ground level. Otherwise you'll burn everything you're trying to water.
  • The surrounding air contains some non-zero amount of humidity (it's water carrying capacity actually goes up as temperature increases), and your heat attack will suck moisture out of the surroundings, evaporating it.
  • Keep it up for several minutes. You want a nice rising column of super-heated air.
  • The superheated air will carry the moisture it started with up to the high altitudes, where it will rapidly cool, condense, form raindrops, and fall back into the super-heated column, where they will heat up, evaporate, and rise again. Each cycle makes a bigger and bigger raindrop, more likely to survive the fall.
  • If this cycle collides with any clouds, it'll consume their moisture too.
    • This is why I suggest overcast with steady wind - so theres a stream of cloud just progressing into it.
  • Eventually, after you've stopped adding heat, the rising hot air will loose it's updraft, and the condensed water will fall as rain.
    • Or hail, if you've added to much power.

Can it be done without god-levels of lightning ?

Yes:

  • If there's a big metal structure nearby, just run your magic power through that. You wont be able to heat it up as much (it'll start to glow, or catch nearby things on fire), but it can still be enough to start an updraft.
  • Walk upwind to a lake / ocean, and use your power to increase the temperature, and thus the evaporation rate, of the water.
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I don't know the answer, mostly because anybody who knows how to control the weather isn't telling. But if you look at the range of upper-atmopsheric lightning you see there are quite a few phenomena involved. For example sprites can be visually impressive, to a very few inspired photographers at least. These phenomena are part of the overall electrical balance of Earth, storms, and ionosphere, and it is vaguely conceivable that they could affect the ability of water or ice droplets to stick together in weather. Certainly there is no proof of that, but dang it, you're asking for a small module that can control the weather so at some point you're going to have to ask your readers to open wide.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! I will look into the phenomena you suggested. I definitely recognize that there will be some hand-wavium and suspension of disbelief involved because MAGIC. I'm just hoping to not pull some power/ability out of left field that can't possibly be related to electrical capabilities. If there is some way I can link it "plausibly" enough then I think that will suffice. $\endgroup$
    – CemHill
    Feb 8, 2021 at 15:27

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