How Can Scientists Control the Weather?
Since the 1940’s scientists have discovered techniques by which several weather conditions can be controlled. For example, it is possible to prevent lightning by using an electrical earth to diffuse the electrical content of a cloud.
The American scientist V. J. Schaefer has shown that it is feasible to produce greater concentrations of ice in clouds than occur under normal conditions. Weather experts already are taking advantage of these discoveries to increase snowfall on mountains for winter sports, to prevent damaging hailstones and to moderate, or even prevent, the development of dangerous storms.
Scientists are now able, in some cases, to make a cloud burst to produce rainfall over parched areas. These local efforts may lead the way to large-scale weather control. But before then scientists may have to learn to cope with the damaging effect of air pollution on weather conditions.
The aspiration to control the weather is evident throughout human history: from ancient rituals intended to bring rain for crops to the U.S. Military Operation Popeye, an attempt to disrupt supply lines by lengthening the North Vietnamese monsoon. The most successful attempts at influencing weather involve cloud seeding; they include the fog- and low stratusdispersion techniques employed by major airports, techniques used to increase winter precipitation over mountains, and techniques to suppress hail.
A recent example of weather control was China’s preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. China shot 1,104 rain dispersal rockets from 21 sites in the city of Beijing in an effort to keep rain away from the opening ceremony of the games on 8 August 2008. Guo Hu, head of the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau (BMB), confirmed the success of the operation with 100 millimeters falling in Baoding City of Hebei Province, to the southwest and Beijing’s Fangshan District recording a rainfall of 25 millimeters.
Whereas there is inconclusive evidence for these techniques’ efficacy, there is extensive evidence that human activity such as agriculture and industry results in inadvertent weather modification:
Acid rain, caused by industrial emission of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, adversely affects freshwater lakes, vegetation, and structures.
Anthropogenic pollutants reduce air quality and visibility.
Climate change caused by human activities that emit greenhouse gases into the air is expected to affect the frequency of extreme weather events such as drought, extreme temperatures, flooding, high winds, and severe storms.
Heat, generated by large metropolitan areas have been shown to minutely affect nearby weather, even at distances as far as 1,600 kilometres (990 mi).
The effects of inadvertent weather modification may pose serious threats to many aspects of civilization, including ecosystems, natural resources, food and fiber production, economic development, and human health.