METEOROLOGY

FORMATION OF CLOUDS

Scientists have studied cloud types and have realised that a number of definite steps are involved in their formation. One kind of rain cloud is the cumulonimbus cloud (thunderstorm). Meteorologists have studied how cumulonimbus clouds are formed and how they produce rain, hail and lightning. They have found that cumulonimbus clouds go through the following steps to produce rain:

1) Cumulonimbus clouds begin to form when wind pushes some small pieces of clouds (cumulus clouds) to an area where these clouds converge.

2) Small clouds join together forming a larger cloud. (The Atmosphere. Anthes et al., p.269: Elements of Meteorology, Miller and Thompson, p.141).

(A) Isolated small pieces of clouds (cumulus clouds).
(B) When the small clouds join together, updrafts within the larger cloud increase,
so the cloud is stacked up. Water drops are indicated by
(The Atmosphere, Anthes and others, p. 269.)

3) When the small clouds join together updrafts within the larger cloud increase. The updrafts near the centre of the cloud are stronger than near the edges because they are protected from the cooling effects by the outer portion of the cloud. These updrafts cause the cloud body to grow vertically, so the cloud is stacked up. The vertical growth causes the cloud body to stretch into cooler regions of the atmosphere, where drops of water and hail form and begin to grow larger. When these drops of water and hail become too heavy for the updrafts to support them, they begin to fall from the cloud as rain, hail, etc.

A cumulonimbus cloud. After the cloud is stacked up, rain comes out of it.
(Weather and Climate, Bodin, p.123.)

Over 1400 years ago God revealed details about cloud formation in the Quran:

"....God makes the clouds move gently, then gathers them, then makes them into layers and then you see the rain come out of it...." (The Quran - Nur 24:43)

Meteorologists have only recently come to know the details of cloud formation, structure and function by using advanced equipment. Planes, satellites, computers, weather balloons etc. have all been used to study wind and its direction, to measure humidity and its variations, and to determine the level and variation of atmospheric pressure.

This verse, after mentioning clouds and rain, then continues further on the topic of hail and lightning.

"He sends down from the heaven mountains (of clouds) within is hail, He strikes with it whomever He wills. He turns it away from whom He wills. Vivid flash of its lightning nearly blinds the sight." (The Quran - Nur 24:43)

Meteorologists have found that cumulonimbus clouds, which shower hail, can reach heights of up to 25-30,000 ft (Elements of Meteorology, p.141), like mountains, as God says in the Quran:

"He sends down from the heaven mountains (of clouds)" (The Quran - Nur 24:43)

This verse raises an interesting question. Why does God say "its lightning" in reference to hail? Does this mean that hail is involved in producing lightning? The book, entitled Meteorology Today, says that clouds become electrified as hail falls through a region in the cloud of supercooled droplets and ice crystals. As liquid droplets collide with particles of hail, they freeze on contact and release latent heat. This keeps the surface of the hail warmer than that of the surrounding ice crystals. When the hail comes in contact with an ice crystal, an important phenomenon occurs: electrons flow from the colder object toward the warmer object. Hence, the hail becomes negatively charged. The same effect occurs when supercooled droplets come in contact with a piece of hail and tiny splinters of positively charged ice break off.

These lighter, positively charged particles are then carried to the upper part of the cloud by updrafts. The hail, left with a negative charge, falls towards the bottom of the cloud, thus the lower part of the cloud becomes negatively charged. These negative charges are then discharged to the ground as lightning (Meteorology Today, Ahrens, 1988, p.437). Therefore, hail plays an important role in the production of lightning.

This type of information on meteorology was discovered only recently. Until 1600 CE, Aristotle's ideas on meteorology were dominant. For example, he said that the atmosphere contains two kinds of exhalation, moist and dry. He also said that thunder occurs when dry exhalation collides with neighbouring clouds, and lightning is the inflaming and burning of dry exhalation with a thin and faint fire (The Works of Aristotle Translated into English: Meteoroligica vol. 3, Ross et al., 1963, p.369). These are some of the ideas on meteorology that were dominant when the Quran was revealed over fourteen centuries ago. Had the Quran been from a human source it would most definitely have included these types of erroneous theories regarding meteorology.

THE WATER CYCLE

In the Quran we can find many statements that mention the role of water. It is common knowledge nowadays that the sun's heat causes evaporation of water from the oceans. Water vapour rises on air currents and winds and some of it condenses and falls as rain directly on to the oceans. Air bearing large amounts of water vapour is also carried over land where it falls as rain and snow. Much of this water is quickly evaporated by the sun. Some soaks into the soil to form ground water and some works its way into streams and rivers.

On careful examination of the data in the Quran, it emerges that it does not contain any ancient mythical concepts. For example, in the 7th century CE it was thought that rainfall was due to water from the oceans being drawn up by winds and thrust towards the interior of the continents.

Plato shared these views and thought that water returned to the oceans via a great abyss, the "Tartarus" (a mythical bottomless hole). These views still existed until 1580 when the first clear view of the water cycle was put forward by Bernard Palissy.

In the following passages of the Quran there is no trace of these mistaken theories which were current at the time of the Messenger Muhammad (PBUH). God revealed in the Quran:

"And We send down from the sky water in measure and we give it lodging on the earth and certainly We are able to withdraw it. Then we produce for you gardens of date-palm and grapes wherein is much fruit for you and whereof you eat." (The Quran - Al-Mu'minun 23:18-19)

"and He it is Who sends the winds, glad tidings heralding His mercy, and We send down purifying water from the sky. That We may give life thereby to a dead land, and We give many beasts and men that We have created to drink thereof" (The Quran - Al-Furqan 25:48-49)

In view of the state of knowledge in Messenger Muhammad's (PBUH) day, it is inconceivable that many of the statements in the Quran which are connected with science could have been the work of a man. It is legitimate, therefore, to award the Quran a special place on account of the guarantee of authenticity it provides and the presence in it of scientific statements which, when studied today, appear as a challenge to human explanation.