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Meteorological Alchemy
Lenticular cloud

Cloud seeding, or the manipulation of clouds by chemical means to change precipitation patterns, is scientifically unproven. Even purported successes are said to rest on shaky statistical proof.

Nevertheless, many still see great potential in appropriating it as an effective water resource management tool in places where fresh water supplies are dwindling due to overpopulation and climate change. Which is why, as the Associated Press reported last month, Wyoming is committing $8.8 million to a 5-year project to gauge its viability with unprecedented scientific rigor.

Cloud seeding

“Like most other Western states, Wyoming is rich in oil, gas, coal and other mineral deposits. What it lacks is simple: water.

“So, like other Western states, Wyoming is trying to conjure up rain by embarking on a cloud-seeding project to bolster mountain snowpack -- the reservoirs of the arid and semiarid West -- and create more water from spring and summer snowmelt.”

If Wyoming follows past tactics, expect to hear about fleets of aircrafts or ground-based anti-aircraft guns and rockets impregnating cloud systems with “a fine spray of silver iodide crystals” to coax extra inches of water out of them. Atmospheric sorcery.

Lenticular cloud

Weaponized droplets to win the war against desertification and to stave off any future cataclysmic Hydrological War between arid Western states and the Great Lakes states and provinces.

Perhaps landscape architects will form outrageously successful sky writing businesses or become celestial propaganda insurgents under the employ of Voice of America.

Here Comes The Rain Again: or, Post-Oil Middle East, Part II
  • Reverend Jon
  • January 24, 2006 at 12:15:00 PM CST
  • There is an excellent article called "Owning the Weather" by Arno Arike in the January issue of Harper's that discusses various ideas of weather control and its applications over the past century.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • January 24, 2006 at 6:12:00 PM CST
  • Thanks, Jon. Will check out the article.

    Meanwhile, some "murky" history of cloud seeding in the New Scientist article linked above:

    "On 15 August 1952, the people of Lynmouth in south-west England experienced a downpour like never before. The ensuing floods killed 34 people and left 420 more homeless. At the time rumours circulated that the flood could have been the result of cloud seeding trials that the Royal Air Force was conducting nearby. However, few people now think that the cloud seeding was to blame, because the RAF was seeding cumulus clouds, while the rain that deluged Lynmouth came from a large depression sitting over the region.

    "In 1966 the US military began operational flights on the CIA-inspired, top secret Project Popeye. Their aim was to extend the monsoon season over south-east Asia, thereby increasing the amount of mud on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and flooding critical routes between what were then North Vietnam and South Vietnam. For seven years, aircraft flew more than 2600 sorties to disperse silver iodide into the clouds over the region, and initial results were positive, although analysts remain divided as to whether the extra mud on the trail really made much difference.

    "On 9 June 1972, 238 people lost their lives in floods in Rapid City, South Dakota, when nearly a year's worth of rain fell in just a few hours. Cloud seeding had been carried out nearby earlier in the day and many people believed this triggered the storm. But Harold Orville, who was involved with the seeding programme, is certain that it was not responsible. 'Our seeding was done on the plains, 20 or 30 miles from the area where the heavy rains fell. Numerical simulations of the weather that day suggest that the flood would have happened anyway,' he says."

  • martin
  • January 26, 2006 at 3:37:00 PM CST
  • I know bringin up 'chaos theory' is iffy at best, due to the enormous amount of science-abuse it is used for, but your 'murky' examples could point towards the fact that weather represents one of the most complex and unpredictable series of immesurable variables possible. It is the example par exellence of the complexity of the world and the impossibility of predicting the impact of shifting variables in the real world. Cloud seeding, if it becomes standard practice, could be a dangerous way of proving this. How many more 'nearby but unrelated' incedents might occur?

  • Eli Pousson
  • February 11, 2006 at 8:28:00 PM CST

    "An engineer with Research Support Instruments in Princeton, N.J. recently completed the first phase of work for a U.S. Air Force sponsored project called Microwave Ionosphere Reconfiguration Ground based Emitter, or Mirage. (scroll down)

    The work involves using plasma — an ionized gas — to reconfigure the ionosphere. Mirage would employ a microwave transmitter on the ground and a small rocket that shoots chaff into the air to produce about a liter of plasma at 60-100 km. (36- 60 mi.) in altitude, changing the number of electrons in a select area of the ionosphere to create a virtual barrier. Ionosphere reconfiguration offers two major applications of interest to the military: bouncing radars off the ionosphere, also known as over-the-horizon radar, and the ability to jam signals from the Global Positioning Satellite system, according to John Kline, the lead investigator for Mirage."

    Tactical weather control for the U.S. military. It makes me a little uneasy.

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