Weather modification is the act of intentionally manipulating or altering the weather. The most common form of weather modification is cloud seeding, which increases rain or snow, usually for the purpose of increasing the local water supply. Weather modification can also have the goal of preventing damaging weather, such as hail or hurricanes, from occurring; or of provoking damaging weather against the enemy, as a tactic of military or economic warfare like Operation Popeye, where clouds were seeded to prolong the monsoon in Vietnam. Weather modification in warfare has been banned by the United Nations under Environmental Modification Convention.
A popular belief in northern Europe that shooting prevents hail caused many agricultural towns to fire cannons without ammunition. Veterans of the Seven Years' War, Napoleonic wars, and the American Civil War reported that rain fell after every large battle. After their stories were collected in War and Weather, the United States Department of War in the late 19th century purchased $9,000 of gunpowder and explosives to detonate them in Texas. The results of the test, supervised by Robert Dyrenforth, were inconclusive.
In January 2011, several newspapers and magazines, including the UK's Sunday Times and Arabian Business, reported that scientists backed by the government of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, had created over 50 artificial rainstorms between July and August 2010 near Al Ain, a city which lies close to the country's border with Oman and is the second-largest city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. The artificial rainstorms were said to have sometimes caused hail, gales and thunderstorms, baffling local residents. The scientists reportedly used ionizers to create the rainstorms, and although the results are disputed, the large number of times it is recorded to have rained right after the ionizers were switched on during a usually dry season is encouraging to those who support the experiment.
Cloud seeding is a common technique to enhance precipitation. Cloud seeding entails spraying small particles, such as silver iodide, onto clouds to affect their development, usually with the goal of increasing precipitation. Cloud seeding only works to the extent that there is already water vapor present in the air. Critics generally contend that claimed successes occur in conditions which were going to lead to rain anyway. It is used in a variety of drought-prone countries, including the United States, the People's Republic of China, India, and the Russian Federation. In the People's Republic of China there is a perceived dependency upon it in dry regions, and there is a strong suspicion it is used to "wash the air" in dry and heavily polluted places, such as Beijing. In mountainous areas of the United States such as the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, cloud seeding has been employed since the 1950s.
Project Stormfury was an attempt to weaken tropical cyclones by flying aircraft into storms and seeding the eyewall with silver iodide. The project was run by the United States Government from 1962 to 1983. A similar project using soot was run in 1958, with inconclusive results. Various methods have been proposed to reduce the harmful effects of hurricanes. Moshe Alamaro of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proposed using barges with upward-pointing jet engines to trigger smaller storms to disrupt the progress of an incoming hurricane; critics doubt the jets would be powerful enough to make any noticeable difference.
Alexandre Chorin of the University of California, Berkeley, proposed dropping large amounts of environmentally friendly oils on the sea surface to prevent droplet formation. Experiments by Kerry Emanuel of MIT in 2002 suggested that hurricane-force winds would disrupt the oil slick, making it ineffective. Other scientists disputed the factual basis of the theoretical mechanism assumed by this approach.
The Florida company Dyn-O-Mat and its CEO, Peter Cordani, proposed the use of a patented product it developed, called Dyn-O-Gel, to reduce the strength of hurricanes. The substance is a polymer in powder form (a polyacrylic acid derivative) which reportedly has the ability to absorb 1,500 times its own weight in water. The theory is that the polymer is dropped into clouds to remove their moisture and force the storm to use more energy to move the heavier water drops, thus helping to dissipate the storm. When the gel reaches the ocean surface, it is reportedly dissolved. Peter Cordani teamed up with Mark Daniels and Victor Miller, the owners of a government contracting aviation firm AeroGroup which operated ex-military aircraft commercially. Using a high altitude B-57 Bomber, AeroGroup tested the substance dropping 9,000 pounds from the B-57 aircraft's large bomb bay disbursing it into a large thunderstorm cell just off the east coast of Florida. The tests were documented on film and made international news showing the storms were successfully removed on monitored Doppler radar. In 2003, the program was shut down because of political pressure through NOAA. Numerical simulations performed by NOAA showed however that it would not be a practical solution for large systems like a tropical cyclone.
Hail cannons have been used by some farmers since the 19th century in an attempt to ward off hail, but there is no reliable scientific evidence to confirm their effectiveness. Another new anti-hurricane technology is a method for the reduction of tropical cyclones' destructive force – pumping sea water into and diffusing it in the wind at the bottom of such tropical cyclone in its eye wall.
NOAA published a page addressing various ideas in regards to tropical cyclone manipulation.
In 2007, "How to stop a hurricane" explored various ideas such as:
Researchers from NOAA's hurricane research division addressed hurricane control based ideas.
Later ideas (2017) include laser inversion along the same lines as laser cooling (normally used at cryogenic temperatures) but intended to cool the top 1mm of water. If enough power was used then it might be enough combined with computer modeling to form an interference pattern able to inhibit a hurricane or significantly reduce its strength by depriving it of heat energy.
Operation Popeye was a highly classified operation run by the US military in 1967-1972. The purpose was to prolong Monsoon in Southeast Asia. The overwhelming precipitation successfully disrupted the tactical logistics of Vietnamese army. Operation Popeye is believed as the first successful practise of weather modification technology in warfare. After it was unveiled, weather modification in warfare was banned by the Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD).
In "Benign Weather Modification" published March 1997, Air Force Major Barry B. Coble superficially documents the existence of weather modification science where he traces the developments that have occurred, notably, in the hands of the Pentagon and CIA's staunchest ideological enemies.
In the 1990s a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force Ronald R. Fogleman was issued to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States would require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future.
In 1975, the US and Canada entered into an agreement under the auspices of the United Nations for the exchange of information on weather modification activity.
Weather modification, particularly hostile weather warfare, was addressed by the "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/72, TIAS 9614 Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques." The Convention was signed in Geneva on May 18, 1977; entered into force on October 5, 1978; ratified by U.S. President Jimmy Carter on December 13, 1979; and the U.S. ratification deposited at New York January 17, 1980.
In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps records of weather modification projects on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, under authority of Public Law 92-205, 15 USC § 330B, enacted in 1971.
2005 U.S. Senate Bill 517 and U.S. House Bill 2995 U.S. Senate Bill 517 and U.S. House Bill 2995 were two bills proposed in 2005 that would have expanded experimental weather modification, to establish a Weather Modification Operations and Research Board, and implemented a national weather modification policy. Neither were made into law. Former Texas State Senator John N. Leedom was the key lobbyist on behalf of the weather modification bills.
2007 U.S. Senate Bill 1807 & U.S. House Bill 3445 Senate Bill 1807 and House Bill 3445, identical bills introduced July 17, 2007, proposed to establish a Weather Mitigation Advisory and Research Board to fund weather modification research
Magical and religious practices to control the weather are attested in a variety of cultures. In ancient India it is said that yajna or vedic rituals of chanting manthras and offering were performed by rishis to bring sudden bursts of rain fall in rain starved regions. Some Indigenous Americans, like some Europeans, had rituals which they believed could induce rain. The Finnish people, on the other hand, were believed by others to be able to control weather. As a result, Vikings refused to take Finns on their oceangoing raids. Remnants of this superstition lasted into the twentieth century, with some ship crews being reluctant to accept Finnish sailors.
The early modern era saw people observe that during battles the firing of cannons and other firearms often initiated precipitation.
In Greek mythology, Iphigenia was offered as a human sacrifice to appease the wrath of the goddess Artemis, who had becalmed the Achaean fleet at Aulis at the beginning of the Trojan War. In Homer's Odyssey, Aeolus, keeper of the winds, bestowed Odysseus and his crew with a gift of the four winds in a bag. However, the sailors opened the bag while Odysseus slept, looking for booty (money), and as a result were blown off course by the resulting gale. In ancient Rome, the lapis manalis was a sacred stone kept outside the walls of Rome in a temple of Mars. When Rome suffered from drought, the stone was dragged into the city. The Berwick witches of Scotland were found guilty of using black magic to summon storms to murder King James VI of Scotland by seeking to sink the ship upon which he travelled. Scandinavian witches allegedly claimed to sell the wind in bags or magically confined into wooden staves; they sold the bags to seamen who could release them when becalmed. In various towns of Navarre, prayers petitioned Saint Peter to grant rain in time of drought. If the rain was not forthcoming, the statue of St Peter was removed from the church and tossed into a river.
A homogenitus, anthropogenic or artificial cloud, is a cloud induced by human activity. Although generally clouds covering the sky have only a natural origin, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the use of fossil fuels and water vapor and other gases emitted by nuclear, thermal and geothermal power plants yield significant alterations of the local weather conditions. These new atmospheric conditions can thus enhance cloud formation.Various methods have been proposed for creating and utilizing this weather phenomenon. Experiments have also been carried out for various studies. For example, Russian scientists have been studying artificial clouds for more than 50 years. But by far the greatest number of anthropogenic clouds are airplane contrails (condensation trails) and rocket trails.Beijing Weather Modification Office
The Beijing Weather Modification Office is a unit of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau tasked with weather control in Beijing, China, and its surrounding areas, including parts of Hebei and Inner Mongolia.The Beijing Weather Modification Office form a part of China's nationwide weather control effort, believed to be the world's largest; it employs 37,000 people nationwide, who seed clouds by firing rockets and shells loaded with silver iodide into them. According to Zhang Qiang, head of the Office, cloud seeding increased precipitation in Beijing by about one-eighth in 2004; nationwide, similar efforts added 210 cubic kilometres (7.4×10^12 cu ft) of rain between 1995 and 2003.The work of the Office is largely aimed at hail storm prevention or making rain to end droughts; they have also induced precipitation for purposes of firefighting or counteracting the effect of severe dust storms, as they did in the aftermath of one storm in April 2006 which dropped 300,000 tonnes of dust and sand on the city and was believed to have been the largest in five years. Their technology was also used to create snow on New Year's Day in 1997. Other proposed future uses for induced precipitation include lowering temperatures in summer, in hopes of reducing electricity consumption. More prominently, they were enlisted by the Chinese government to ensure that the 2008 Summer Olympics are free of rain, by breaking up clouds headed towards the capital and forcing them to drop rain on outlying areas instead. The office created a snowstorm in November 2009.Bioprecipitation
Bioprecipitation is the concept of rain-making bacteria and was proposed by David Sands from Montana State University before 1983. The formation of ice in clouds is required for snow and most rainfall. Dust and soot particles can serve as ice nuclei, but biological ice nuclei are capable of catalyzing freezing at much warmer temperatures. The ice-nucleating bacteria currently known are mostly plant pathogens. Recent research suggests that bacteria may be present in clouds as part of an evolved process of dispersal.Ice-nucleating proteins derived from ice-nucleating bacteria are used for snowmaking.Chemtrail conspiracy theory
The chemtrail conspiracy theory is based on the erroneous belief that long-lasting condensation trails are "chemtrails" consisting of chemical or biological agents left in the sky by high-flying aircraft, sprayed for nefarious purposes undisclosed to the general public. Believers in this conspiracy theory say that while normal contrails dissipate relatively quickly, contrails that linger must contain additional substances. Those who subscribe to the theory speculate that the purpose of the chemical release may be solar radiation management, weather modification, psychological manipulation, human population control, or biological or chemical warfare and that the trails are causing respiratory illnesses and other health problems.The claim has been dismissed by the scientific community, and most people do not believe this myth. There is no evidence that purported chemtrails differ from normal water-based contrails routinely left by high-flying aircraft under certain atmospheric conditions. Although proponents have tried to prove that chemical spraying occurs, their analyses have been flawed or based on misconceptions. Because of the persistence of the conspiracy theory and questions about government involvement, scientists and government agencies around the world have repeatedly explained that the supposed chemtrails are in fact normal contrails.The term chemtrail is a portmanteau of the words chemical and trail, just as contrail is a portmanteau of condensation and trail.Cloud seeding
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. The usual intent is to increase precipitation (rain or snow), but hail and fog suppression are also widely practised in airports where harsh weather conditions are experienced.
Cloud seeding also occurs due to ice nucleators in nature, most of which are bacterial in origin.Cloudbuster
A cloudbuster (or cloud buster) is a weather influencing device designed by Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957), which Reich said could produce rain by manipulating what he called "orgone energy" present in the atmosphere.The cloudbuster was intended to be used in a way similar to a lightning rod: focusing it on a location in the sky and grounding it in some material that was presumed to absorb orgone—such as a body of water—would draw the orgone energy out of the atmosphere, causing the formation of clouds and rain. Reich conducted dozens of experiments with the cloudbuster, calling the research "Cosmic orgone engineering".Environmental Modification Convention
The Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD), formally the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques is an international treaty prohibiting the military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects. It opened for signature on 18 May 1977 in Geneva and entered into force on 5 October 1978.
The Convention bans weather warfare, which is the use of weather modification techniques for the purposes of inducing damage or destruction. The Convention on Biological Diversity of 2010 would also ban some forms of weather modification or geoengineering.Many states do not regard this as a complete ban on the use of herbicides in warfare, such as Agent Orange, but it does require case-by-case consideration.Hail cannon
A hail cannon is a shock wave generator claimed to disrupt the formation of hailstones in the atmosphere.
These devices frequently engender conflict between farmers and neighbors when used, because they are repeatedly fired every 1 to 10 seconds while a storm is approaching and until it has passed through the area, yet there is no scientific evidence for their effectiveness.List of conspiracy theories
Many unproven conspiracy theories exist with varying degrees of popularity, frequently related to clandestine government plans and elaborate murder plots. Conspiracy theories usually deny consensus or cannot be proven using the historical or scientific method and are not to be confused with research concerning verified conspiracies such as Germany's pretense for invading Poland in World War II.Operation Popeye
Operation Popeye (Project Controlled Weather Popeye / Motorpool / Intermediary-Compatriot) was a highly classified weather modification program in Southeast Asia during 1967–1972. The cloud seeding operation during the Vietnam War ran from March 20, 1967 until July 5, 1972 in an attempt to extend the monsoon season, specifically over areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The operation was used to induce rain and extend the East Asian Monsoon season in support of U.S. government efforts related to the War in Southeast Asia.
The former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, was aware that there might be objections raised by the international scientific community but said in a memo to the president that such objections had not in the past been a basis for prevention of military activities considered to be in the interests of U.S. national security.
The chemical weather modification program was conducted from Thailand over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and allegedly sponsored by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and CIA without the authorization of then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird who had categorically denied to Congress that a program for modification of the weather for use as a tactical weapon even existed.Project Cumulus
Project Cumulus was a 1950s UK government initiative to investigate weather manipulation, in particular through cloud seeding experiments. Known jokingly internally as Operation Witch Doctor, the project was operational between 1949 and 1952.Project Stormfury
Project Stormfury was an attempt to weaken tropical cyclones by flying aircraft into them and seeding with silver iodide. The project was run by the United States Government from 1962 to 1983.
The hypothesis was that the silver iodide would cause supercooled water in the storm to freeze, disrupting the inner structure of the hurricane. This led to the seeding of several Atlantic hurricanes. However, it was later shown that this hypothesis was incorrect. It was determined that most hurricanes do not contain enough supercooled water for cloud seeding to be effective. Additionally, researchers found that unseeded hurricanes often undergo the same structural changes that were expected from seeded hurricanes. This finding called Stormfury's successes into question, as the changes reported now had a natural explanation.
The last experimental flight was flown in 1971, due to a lack of candidate storms and a changeover in NOAA's fleet. More than a decade after the last modification experiment, Project Stormfury was officially canceled. Although a failure in its goal of reducing the destructiveness of hurricanes, Project Stormfury was not without merit. The observational data and storm lifecycle research generated by Stormfury helped improve meteorologists' ability to forecast the movement and intensity of future hurricanes.Rainmaking
Rainmaking, also known as artificial precipitation, artificial rainfall and pluviculture, is the act of attempting to artificially induce or increase precipitation, usually to stave off drought or the wider global warming. According to the clouds' different physical properties, this can be done using airplanes or rockets to sow to the clouds with catalysts such as dry ice, silver iodide and salt powder, to make clouds rain or increase precipitation, to remove or mitigate farmland drought, to increase reservoir irrigation water or water supply capacity, to increase water levels for power generation, or even to solve the global warming problem.
In the United States, rainmaking was attempted by traveling showmen. It was practiced in the old west, but may have reached a peak during the dust bowl drought of the American West and Midwest in the 1930s. The practice was depicted in the 1956 film The Rainmaker. Attempts to bring rain directly have waned with development of the science of meteorology, the advent of laws against fraud and increased communication technology, with some exceptions such as cloud seeding and forms of prayer including rain dances, which are still practiced today. Prayer for more rain is also a cultural practice for Christians and Muslims in areas which people keep "traditional" non-scriptural religions. In the Christian areas the Defteras (learned clerics of the Orthodox Christian Church) believed to have the wisdom to arrest the rain, to bring hail to farms of individuals who refuse to comply with religious rules as well as to bring more rains when the rainy season fell short of giving the usual amount of rain needed for growing cereals.The term is also used metaphorically to describe the process of bringing new clients into a professional practice, such as law, architecture, consulting, advertising, or investment banking—in general, processes that bring money into a company.
It is also used to describe a confidence trick where the scammer takes money from the victim to influence a system over which they have no real control, but a random chance of the outcome happening anyway.Rainmaking (ritual)
Rainmaking is a weather modification ritual that attempts to invoke rain.
Among the best known examples of weather modification rituals are North American rain dances, historically performed by many Native American tribes, particularly in the Southwestern United States. Some of these weather modification rituals are still implemented today.Royal Rainmaking Project
The Thailand Royal Rainmaking Project (Thai: โครงการฝนหลวง) was initiated in November 1955 by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thai farmers repeatedly suffered the effects of drought. The king resolved to do something about it and proposed a solution to the dearth of rain: artificial rainmaking, or cloud seeding. The program is run by the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation.Silver iodide
Silver iodide is an inorganic compound with the formula AgI. The compound is a bright yellow solid, but samples almost always contain impurities of metallic silver that give a gray coloration. The silver contamination arises because AgI is highly photosensitive. This property is exploited in silver-based photography. Silver iodide is also used as an antiseptic and in cloud seeding.Vincent Schaefer
Vincent Joseph Schaefer (July 4, 1906 – July 25, 1993) was an American chemist and meteorologist who developed cloud seeding. On November 13, 1946, while a researcher at the General Electric Research Laboratory, Schaefer modified clouds in the Berkshire Mountains by seeding them with dry ice. While he was self-taught and never completed high school, he was issued 14 patents.Weather Modification Operations and Research Board
The Weather Modification Operations and Research Board was a proposed agency of the United States government, intended to promote research into weather modification. A bill proposing creation of the board was introduced in the U.S. Senate on two occasions by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the first on March 4, 2004, and the second on March 3, 2005. The bill did not become law.
In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regulates weather control projects, under authority of Public Law 205 of the 92nd Congress. This agency does not
perform research into weather modification.Weather warfare
Weather warfare is the use of weather modification techniques such as cloud seeding for military purposes.
Prior to the Environmental Modification Convention signed in Geneva in 1977, the United States used weather warfare in the Vietnam War. Under the auspices of the Air Weather Service, the United States' Operation Popeye used cloud seeding over the Ho Chi Minh trail, increasing rainfall by an estimated thirty percent during 1967 and 1968. It was hoped that the increased rainfall would reduce the rate of infiltration down the trail.With much less success, the United States also dropped salt on the airbase during the siege of Khe Sanh in an attempt to reduce the fog that hindered air operations.A research paper produced for the United States Air Force written in 1996 speculates about the future use of nanotechnology to produce "artificial weather", clouds of microscopic computer particles all communicating with each other to form an intelligent fog that could be used for various purposes. "Artificial weather technologies do not currently exist. But as they are developed, the importance of their potential applications rises rapidly." Weather modification technologies are described in an unclassified academic paper written by air force officer-cadet students as "a force multiplier with tremendous power that could be exploited across the full spectrum of war-fighting environments."The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (Geneva: May 18, 1977, Entered into force: October 5, 1978) prohibits "widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury". However, it has been argued that this permits "local, non-permanent changes". In contrast, the "Consultative Committee of Experts" established in Article VIII of the Convention has stated in their "Understanding relating to Article II" that any use of environmental modification where this is done "as a means of destruction, damage or injury to another State Party, would be prohibited.". Furthermore, they conclude in the same paragraph that "military or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques, would result, or could reasonably be expected to result, in widespread, long-lasting or severe destruction, damage or injury.", meaning that all signatories are expected to abstain from using weather modification to cause harm at any scale. Importantly, the language of the treaty does not overtly condemn military use of weather modification when it does not directly cause harm, such as the United States' use of weather modification in the siege of Khe Sanh, discussed above. Because of the limitations of the treaty, and the fact that it applies only to signatory states, weather warfare is not a thing of the past, and may continue to play a role in warfare throughout the twenty-first century.