The Mysterious Air Cannons of Roero (solved)

This weekend we went to the Roero wine area and after a loooong lunch we sat with friends outside and looked fearfully at the looming, darker growing clouds.

When suddenly we heard a loud boom in the distance. Followed by more booms closer by … and within minutes it sounded like we were in the middle of a WW1 battlefield. Listen to the sound (while enjoying the lovely hill side panorama) in the below video:

Totally baffled about what was going on, the locals explained to us that this is the noise of air cannons, which shoot hot, compressed air against the clouds in order to prevent hail. I had never heard of anything like this and an extensive google search in several languages only yielded in a story about using air cannons in NZ against birds who plunder the vineyards.

I am very curious about the theory behind this, I will also try next time to get actual images of these cannons. Maybe they don’t look like cannons at all! I am also wondering how tourists and locals cope with that noise and why the heck has no one ever written about this before?

If anyone has a good link on that topic, please leave it in the comments.

[update] Ah, one has to know that they are called ‘Hail Cannons‘ to find information online! There is apparently no scientific evidence that they actually work.

They have been around since the 18th century and you can buy them at

Seems that fights among farmers who use them and peace loving neighbors are common.

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8 Responses to The Mysterious Air Cannons of Roero (solved)

  1. GTOJack67 says:

    Air cannons are used in orchards and vineyards in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula (Canada) to scare of birds from feeding on the fruit. They’ve been in use for many years. In fact, all manner of variations on the theme – some sounding more like shotguns or firecrackers.

  2. John says:

    In Tuscany they’re used in vineyards to scare off cingiale, wild boars, when there’s fruit on the vine.

  3. Chimpy says:

    Cannons are used for the same purpose in northern Washington and southern British Columbia. I grew up in pear orchards in southern Oregon in the 70s, and they weren’t used there.

  4. Pingback: All hail the hail cannons! – Absurd Intellectual

  5. sean orr says:

    I don’t see how shooting compressed hot air into the sky would stop hail. Hail forms when there is an updraft of hot air that pushes cold condensed air higher up into the stratosphere. Hail would never occur in the arctic for example. An interesting fact about hail is that a hailstone will have concentric rings that reveal the freezing and refreezing of the air.

  6. Warren says:

    I did some work on one of these in Melbourne Australia about 20 years ago. Again used in an orchard area but this was also one of the first linked to the meteorology storm radar system so it started firing automatically based on visible incoming storm formations. In person I could also hear the whip of the sound as it funneled its way upward but yes, quite a loud sound. Unfortunately one of the other issues is that birds love to get into the cannon and sit there before they start firing. Regular maintenance is required to clean out the shell-shocked critters. There is good evidence that they do actually stave off the hail storms and protect the crops compared to neighboring properties so it must be worth the try.

  7. I’ve been following the debate over hail cannons on my blog, Evidence Soup, for several years. Thanks for keeping the conversation going :-)

  8. bidyuhan says:

    May the coming year be a positive opportunity, better life and a more fruitful year to you and your family. Happy New Year ^_^

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