Rushville Republican

Columns

November 26, 2012

Are we close to controlling the weather?

RUSHVILLE — As I sit writing this week’s column, I note that the outdoor temperature is a chilly 38 degrees, a far cry from the 90+ degree temperatures of this summer’s sultry drought conditions, which, it seems, ended just a few weeks ago. The trees are all bare and, for the most part, the only healthy green left is the grass on the courthouse lawn. Thanksgiving has passed, and we’re less than one month away from Christmas, with the New Year coming only one week later. Before we know it, 2013 will be here and, along with it, a fresh set of 12 months to look forward to with anticipation or with dread. But all that still seems to be in the distant future.

Christmas has yet to arrive, and the “holiday season” is just underway for most of us.

The year coming to a close has been full of unexpected events, hurricane Sandy smashing into the northeastern coastline, one of the warmest winters on record, one of the hottest summers in recent memory, and another winter the impact of which is yet to be felt. Once again we have been reminded how essentially helpless we are when it comes to harnessing the forces of nature, but are we really helpless when it come to controlling the weather? Perhaps not.

Recently, I read a startling Internet article that says scientists have caused 50 downpours of rain in the desert nation of Abu Dhabi, an area that historically has been nothing but dry shifting sands. A team of scientists working in the Al Ain region of the desert in that part of the world “erected entire fields of giant ionizers to generate waves of negative ions which rise into the lower atmosphere and attract dust particles. The dust particles, in turn, attract condensation from the ambient air, and, when enough condensation is achieved the clouds can’t hold the water anymore and a downpour of rain is unleashed.”

“This last year,” the article continues, “saw huge rainstorms over Abu Dhabi during July and August, months that are normally bone dry in the desert. The success of the project astonished even the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, whose former director reportedly said, ‘Maybe this is the most important point for mankind.’” The mind boggles at the possibility for good that could be done by being able to bring rain to drought-stricken areas around the world. The article goes on to note that, “there appears to be an experimental weather control technology being operated by the U.S. government right now, shrouded in secrecy...and the entire project is understood by those who have really looked into it as a ‘weather weapon’ capable of ‘potentially triggering floods, droughts, hurricanes, and earthquakes.’”

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: “Weather modification is the act of intentionally manipulating or altering the weather<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather>. The most common form of weather modification is cloud seeding <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_seeding> to increase rain or snow, usually for the purpose of increasing the local water supply <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supply>. Weather modification can also have the goal of preventing damaging weather, such as hail <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hail> storms or hurricanes <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricanes> from occurring or provoking damaging weather against an enemy or rival, as a tactic of military or economic warfare. Weather modification in warfare has been banned by the United Nations <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations>.” But if we do reach the point of being able to control the weather, who would know if a sudden thunderstorm were man-made or natural? Worse yet, even for peaceful purposes, who will decide what the weather will be if it can really be controlled, which now seems entirely possible?

Fanciful as all this may sound, here are just a few ideas scientists are studying on how hurricanes might be manipulated: “Using lasers to discharge lightning <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning> in storms which are likely to become hurricanes,” or “pouring liquid nitrogen <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_nitrogen> onto the sea to deprive the hurricane of heat energy<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_energy>,” or “creating soot <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soot> to absorb sunlight and change air temperature <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature> and, hence, convection currents <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convection> in a [hurricane’s] outer wall.”

Without going too far afield, there are possibly unintended consequences to weather control, too. One of the most obvious would be altering the natural weather patterns around the world, like causing the polar ice caps to melt. On the other hand, if we reach the point where we can control the weather, doesn’t it seem logical that we ought to be able to keep the ice caps cold?

Think about all the death and destruction that could be avoided if hurricanes and tornadoes could be controlled! The central question remains, however, who will decide what the weather will be and who will insure that weather control never becomes a weapon? Will some international body decide that the Midwestern states should have a perfect summer with moderate temperatures and sufficient rain fall? Will that same international body decide that a tornado in some part of the world would be a good thing in terms of population control?

What’s most interesting, it seems to me, is the idea of controlling the weather has always seemed like an impossibility, especially when one considers the vastness of hurricane Sandy that ravaged the entire coast of the northeastern United States. Nevertheless, serious work is apparently being done around the world to alter the path of huge storms that begin far out at sea, or preventing them altogether. Who knows? The day may come when we can order the perfect summer day in the middle of January.

That’s -30- for this week.

 

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