Can Rain Hold Us Hostage?

I Barely Made It Through England's Wettest Year. Now El Niño Looms Over My California Dream.

We’ve bought sand bags at Home Depot, installed new gutters, and patched up the roof of our house in Los Angeles. We’ve asked a plumber to check our industrial-grade sump pump and looked into flood insurance. I’ve even been pestering my husband to spray Thompson’s Water Seal over a leaky patch on the stucco wall outside our kitchen.

Now we’re just waiting for the next iteration of this “Godzilla” El Niño that threatens to send torrents of rain over California until March. As I check the weather report every morning—something …

The Slimy Underworld That Emerges After the Rain

After a Good Soak, the City Comes Alive with Rare Snails, Poisonous Mushrooms, and Slug-Like Molds.

You know that earthy smell that comes just as it begins to rain after a dry spell? It has a name. Scientists call it petrichor.

When I smell petrichor, I get …

Why We Keep Rediscovering the Flamboyant Godmother of Rock

Sister Rosetta Tharpe Was Buried in an Unmarked Grave, But Now She’s a YouTube Sensation

More than 40 years after her burial in an unmarked Philadelphia grave, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, gospel’s first superstar and its most celebrated crossover figure, is enjoying a burst of Internet …

What Do Raindrops Look Like in Outer Space?

How Arizona’s Monsoons Got Me Chasing Storms on Titan

Living in Tucson, Arizona—a Sonoran desert city surrounded by tall mountains—can make you obsess about rain. In 1993, I had just moved into a new office at the University of …

Polly Magoos

For Julien Poirier

 
Old Holborn yellow, Zig Zag “Le Zouave”
Barcelona chocolate, Kronenbourg pint
four rose for you, heated terrace
rain street, an ambulance passes by
Turkish Techno, European tourists

The Magic of Squeezing Water Out of the Sky

A Hundred Years Ago, Charles Hatfield Cashed in on America’s Weakness for Quick Fixes—Even if They Seem Too Good to Be True

In the 1956 film The Rainmaker, a slick-talking stranger played by Burt Lancaster shows up in a drought-stricken town. Clad in a black cowboy hat and red neckerchief, he woos …