There is much said about modifying weather by various conspiracy theorists and alike. Often said to be the result of chemtrails or RF weapons, the fact is that the weather is very hard to modify. It can be modified, but only under certain conditions and in a very localized area.
The best known method of weather modification is cloud seeding. While data is sparse on the total effectiveness, especially in different conditions, it does seem to work, at least when applied to favorable clouds. There are some other methods of weather modification. I’ve listed them to show just how difficult really is.
Weather modification Methods:
1. Radical Changes to Topography or Ground Cover - This might not qualify as a “weather modification” method because it is not as if it can be turned on and off or directed at any given weather system. Furthermore, the effects that it has on weather patterns are almost always unintended and usually unwelcome. However, major changes to an area’s structures, topography, structures or ground cover can certainly result in changes to the weather patterns, at least locally.
The most obvious and well known of these effects is the urban heat island. Constructing a major city in an otherwise temperate area invariably involves the replacement of vegetation with pavement, resulting in much different thermal characteristics. Water is less well absorbed, light is readily absorbed by roofs and pavement and re-radiated as infrared energy. The net effect is that cities tend to be hotter than their surrounding areas. This can also result in other changes to the local climate.
Irrigation of vast areas of land, deforestation and diverting or restricting large bodies of water can also result in changes to the localized weather patterns. These may or may not be dramatic enough to be noticeable. One of the most extreme examples of how human-produced changes to the landscape can alter the weather is the Aral Sea, which has shrunken significantly as a result of diversion of water for irrigation. The result has been a huge increase in local dust storms. These, in tern, have impacted the local climate, altering precipitation pasterns and heat retention.
2. Extremely Large Explosions - The effect is local and temporary, but extremely large explosions can alter local weather. In most cases, this would refer to nuclear explosions, although a chemical explosion could do the same, if it were of sufficient size. For any noticeable effect, even locally, the explosion must be extremely massive. The effect also depends on the altitude of the explosion and the circumstances under which it occurs.
- Above ground explosions that occur in dry conditions and outside of any per-existing localized weather systems will have very little effect of any kind on weather.
- Ground-level explosions that occur during otherwise dry conditions will produce large amounts of dust, which can have localized effects, but won’t do much else.
- Ground level explosions that occur during heavy atmospheric saturation may produce enough dust to cause a seeding effect of the clouds and produce precipitation.
- Explosions well above ground that occur during heavy cloud clover or precipitation may vaporize or disperse clouds, resulting in temporary reduction in cloud cover.
- Explosions that occur on or bellow the surface of bodies of water can have the biggest effect, by vaporizing massive amounts of water.
- Extremely large and powerful explosions may have multiple effects, initially blowing cloud cover apart and vaporizing clouds, but also contributing enormous amounts of water vapor to the atmosphere, which will condense to form highly saturated clouds.
Various effects were observed during the atmospheric tests conducted by the United States, Soviet Union and other nations during the 1950′s and 1960′s. Although relatively small in yield, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had well documented effects on the local atmosphere. Both were dropped during periods of relatively high cloud cover. The explosions created massive firestorms and produced huge updrafts, which carried dust and soot into the upper atmosphere. As the material cooled, droplets of water began to condense, producing a “black rain” storm. The sooty rain fell up to 30 kilometers away.
Nuclear tests were normally conducted during clear weather conditions. When conducted in the pacific, the effects of the enormous amount of water vaporized or otherwise ejected into the atmosphere were obvious. In the case of Ivy Mike, lightning was observed in the cloud produced by the explosion. It is shown in the photograph to the right, taken seconds after the detonation.
Many nuclear explosions produced large volumes of precipitation, despite being conducted during clear conditions. This precipitation sometimes contained soil, sand or other debris, which was thrown up into the atmosphere by the blast, if it was conducted on land. This material would normally fall from suspension first and at a relatively close distance to the explosion. However, even at greater distances, the precipitation often contained dangerous levels of radioisotopes.
A question that has been asked by many is whether a nuclear weapon could be used to stop a hurricane, tornado or major storm. The answer is that this is not likely to be workable. A high yield nuclear weapon would completely blow apart a tornado, but would do far more damage than the tornado itself.
Hurricanes, on the other hand, are much larger than the blast radius of even the largest nuclear weapons. Detonating a large nuclear weapon in the eye wall of a hurricane might very well blow a hole in it and disrupt the structure of the cyclone. However, the effect would be limited, temporary and would not stop the overall progress of the storm. It would, however, add radioactive fallout to the system. It also would increase the amount of energy in the hurricane by vaporizing more water and increasing heat. Even if disrupted, the hurricane would quickly reform. If it did anything, it would be to make it slightly more powerful.
3. Cloud Seeding - By far this is the most common form of intentional weather modification. It has been around since the 1940′s and has been used around the world. There are a variety of variations on cloud seeding, including the use of rockets, aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery. Numerous different types of compounds have also been used.
The effectiveness of cloud seeding has long been debated. Since weather conditions are in a constant state of flux and prediction is not exact, it is difficult to objectively assess the effect of something like cloud seeding. The best available evidence, combined with our basic understanding of weather indicates that cloud seeding does have an effect on precipitation and is an effective means of localized weather modification.
The method works by adding material to clouds which will cause water droplets to condense. These “seeds” should produce tiny ice crystals which grow as additional water condenses on them until they are large enough to fall out of suspension. It is hoped that adding seed material to the clouds will accelerate the natural process of condensation, pushing the clouds past the point of saturation and creating a kind of chain reaction that results in precipitation.
A number of materials are used to seed clouds. One of the most common is silver iodine, which has a crystaline structure similar to water ice and can induce freezing of the water droplets in clouds. Dry ice is also sometimes used. It helps to cool areas of the cloud, resulting in water condensing and freezing. Other chemicals have also been tried.
However, cloud seeding has some major limitations. The effect of cloud seeding is highly localized and temporary. It can only directly alter the area that is seeded and in that respect, the seeding operation may need to be very large for it to have anything other than a trivial and fleeting effect. It can be very expensive and the economics remain highly debatable.
Cloud seeding is also very limited in what it can do. It certainly cannot produce rain from a dry sky. It cannot stop a storm or cause a weather system to change direction. What it can, at least potentially do, is cause precipitation to begin from clouds which are very close to the point of saturation already. In this respect, it may be useful in areas where rain is desired and where there are clouds which may pass by the area before reaching the point of producing precipitation.
Cloud seeding has also been used in attempts to reduce or avoid precipitation by seeding clouds ahead of areas in which clear weather is desired. In principle, this should rain out the clouds before they reach area where precipitation is undesirable. It is a much more complex task and requires a much larger seeding operation. It is also questionable whether this is workable at all.
Regardless of what it is being used for, cloud seeding is never 100% effective. It is impossible guarantee to that any given weather system will produce precipitation, as a result of seeding, when it otherwise would not have. Therefore, most cloud seeding programs work by repeatedly seeding weather systems over the course of a season. The end goal being to at least increase the percentage of the systems which produce precipitation, even if not all of them will.
Historical examples of cloud seeding:
- During the Vietnam war, the United States operated a massive cloud-seeding project called Operation Popeye. The idea was to increase the rain associated with the monsoon season in order to hamper transpiration by the North Vietnamese. The program seems to have been at least partially successful. The area seeded did see an extreme amount of rainfall and the monsoon season did extend longer than normal. However, this is likely due, at least partially, to it simply being a heavy monsoon season. The tactical effectiveness is questionable. Even if it did work, it didn’t modify the weather by very much. It just made the rains, which would have happened anyway, occur in a more concentrated area.
- The Soviet Union was known to have undertaken some enormous cloud seeding projects, using the sizable air force to seed clouds with a variety of materials in an attempt to assure good weather for public events and holidays. The practice has continued into modern Russia and was reportedly used for the 2014 Olympics. There is limited evidence of the effectiveness of these measures. While the seeding has been reported to produce precipitation at the time it is done, it’s a bigger question whether this can really prevent precipitation downwind or whether the clouds would end up reforming. There is some evidence that the technique has increased dry, clear days for certain events. However, it clearly is not 100% effective, as attempts have been made to stop large snow falls from occurring in Moscow, and yet Moscow has continued to get heavy snow storms.There also have been mishaps. In one high profile case, a bag of cement being used to seed clouds “did not properly pulverize completely, ” resulting in it falling to the ground… like a big bag of cement. It left a rather large hole in someone’s roof.
- During the 1960′s, the US undertook Project Stormfury, where attempts were made to disrupt hurricanes by seeding the eye walls. Only a few storms met the criteria for seeding under the experiment. The project generated limited evidence. When hurricanes were seeded, changes to the cloud densities were observed. However, they were highly localized and temporary. There is little evidence that this had any substantive effect on the overall weather system. Experiments ended in the 1970′s, in part due to concerns that a seeded storm could change course and cause damage, resulting in a huge liability. Research continued until the official end of the program in 1983.Subsiquent observations and analysis have cast doubt on claims that the seeding had any significant effect at all. Some of the storms did experience changes in their structure or the diameter and shape of the eye of the storm. However, these changes have been observed in other storms that were not seeded. The consensus is currently that seeding of hurricanes as a means of modifying their course or intensity is not workable.
- Cloud seeding has been conducted extensively in Australia. The results have been mixed. In one case, cloud seeding was credited in as much as a 14% increase in precipitation over a given area. Hydro Tasmania began seeding operations in the mid 1960′s. As is so often the case, there is limited hard data to draw any solid conclusions from. The operations may have been modestly successful. CSIRO studied cloud seeding extensively from the 1950′s onward. The final conclusion of the organization is that seeding produces reliable results when it is applied to saturated, supercooled clouds that are the most favorable candidates for producing precipitation.Studies have also been done in Australia on the use of seeding for reducing hail formation. There is less definitive data on this use of seeding, but it remains an issue of interest.
- Cloudseeding has been used by a number of countries in the Middleeast and elsewhere in an attempt to increase the rains in relatively arid regions. The results have been mixed. There are no instances of cloud-seeding resulting in a very dramatic rainfall results. There are, however, examples of years where cloud seeding was employed and rainfall was higher than average. It is always difficult to tell if this is a direct result of the seeding or coincidence.
4. Hail Cannons – Perhaps this should not be included in a list of weather modification methods that actually work, because all available evidence would indicate that hail cannons do not work.
Hail cannons have been around for decades. They are basically combustion chambers attached to large upward-pointing horns. Gas and air are injected into the combustion chamber and ignited. Acetylene is often used as the fuel, but propane or gasoline may also be used. The ignition creates a blast of high pressure air that shoots out the end of the cannon. It’s basically an air vortex cannon.
The idea is that these devices will disrupt the convection flows that produce hailstones if they are fired repeatedly as a storm approaches and passes over this area. They are used mostly in agriculture. Manufacturers claim that using a hail cannon, detonated at intervals of one blast every few seconds, will result in reduced hail over an area of 100 to 200 square meters, with the precipitation falling as rain or slush instead. Thus, a farmer might need to have dozens of these spread across a field to protect crops from damage.
Although they are still for sale and in use, it’s questionable whether they work at all. There is no solid scientific evidence that they work and the theory behind them is questionable. Thunder produces much greater sonic shock (although arguably less focused and at a lower interval) than a hail cannon, and does not seem to interfere with hail production. While scientists are skeptical, it’s also certainly true that it’s difficult to prove definitively that hail cannons *don’t* work.
In all, it seems that the basic premise behind hail cannons should is a sound one, it is simply a question of whether they have anywhere near the power to actually make it happen. Hailstones are produced by organized cyclical convection currents that cause ice particles to be cycled through different layers of a cloud, growing in size until they are too heavy to stay aloft and fall as hail. Hitting these systems with a massive blast of air would seem a reasonable way of upsetting this cycle.
But can a few ounces of acetylene in a hail cannon at ground level do that? At best, it’s questionable. Scale this thing up a couple hundred times and place many of them in a cluster, and it just might. It certainly should work, if it can be made big enough.
That said, I still like them and I’d really love to own one. Whether they stop hail or not, they are loud as hell and look like fun.
Artificially Triggered Lightning - This is not so much weather modification as it is providing some level of control over one aspect of weather. In electrical storms, it is possible to induce lightning to strike a desired target or to induce lightning when the electrical activity is slightly bellow the level necessary for lightning to occur on its own.
The conventional way of doing this is to send a rocket, trailing a liniment of wire, into the cloud. This provides a path to the earth of much lower resistance than the atmosphere and thus results in the discharge of voltage built up in the cloud. The wire is typically vaporized by the lightning, so it only provides the initial path for the first fraction of a second, after which the lightning follows the plasma channel left behind, in a manner similar to natural lightning.
A variation on the rocket method is the “Betts system.” It uses a rocket which discharges a liquid behind it to produce a trail of finely atomized conductive liquid that produces a channel between the cloud and ground of lower resistance than the atmosphere. This is combined with a second rocket which is initial launched to detect the ionization and charge levels in a cloud, thus optimizing the lightning-inducing rocket.
Another method, which has gained attention in recent years is to use powerful ultraviolet lasers. The laser beams ionize molecules in the atmosphere, producing channels of reduced electrical resistance. In 2008, scientists used a powerful pulsed laser to induce lightning discharges.
Whether this really constitutes “weather modification” depends on ones definition. It does produce lightning, but does not modify the weather system.
Ionizers – The jury is still largely out on this, as there has not been enough real world data collected. It is similar to cloud seeding. The technique was put to use in recent years in the United Arab Emirates. Towers built in the desert create negative ions and increase local atmospheric ionization. The charged particles are supposed to work in a manner similar to the seed material used by cloud seeding. They impart their charge to dust particles and this is supposed to make them better at being the nucleus of raindrops. Allegedly this promotes rain.
The system was designed by Swiss scientists and installed in the areas of desert west of where the rain is desired. The idea is that it will alter the clouds as they move past, carried by the prevailing winds.
The UAE did indeed see much increased rain, including some unusual desert rainstorms. However, it remains to be seen if this is just a fluke and they happened to have an especially wet season. Overall, scientists are very skeptical that the ionizers are able to do much.
Fog Prevention and Dispersal - Historically a number of systems have been used to reduce fog at ground level. Again, this is extremely extremely localized. The systems did seem to work, in some cases quite well. One of the best known was used by the British during World War II. It was used at airfields and consisted of large pipes that ran up and down the runways, carrying fuel that was lit to create big jets of flames.
It must have been a spectacular site! But the system did seem to work quite well. It would vaporize or disperse enough of the fog on the runways to make landing safer for air crews. The big disadvantage being that it used enormous amounts of fuel.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 at 10:06 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, Good Science, Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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