May 04, 2008
Revival Comes For Weather Modification

The Chinese are predictably undeterred by worries about weather engineering efforts.

The most extensive operations are taking place in China, however. Here, for example, weather-modification "authorities" use conventional military weaponry to bombard clouds with silver-iodide particles. Under the guidance of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), local "weather changing" offices employ some 39,000 staff equipped with 7,113 anti-aircraft cannons, which, in 2006, were used to fire a million rounds of silver iodide into the atmosphere (with the country spending over $100m a year in the process). The Chinese state news agency claims that between 1999 and 2006, China produced 250 billion metric tonnes of artificial rain, though researchers take this with a pinch of salt.


The Chinese have gone public with their intention to stop drizzle ruining the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics.

Think the world can be convinced to give up crop genetic engineering, human genetic engineering, weather modification, or continual construction of large numbers of coal electric plants? Not with the rise of China. The Chinese remind me of America in the 1950s.

Weather modification still finds prominent advocates in the United States as well.

New technologies let researchers follow atmospheric events as they happen, says Roelof Bruintjes of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, Colorado. "This really is a new era of weather modification."

"There have been big improvements in radar, satellites, and airborne instrumentation, and unmanned aerial vehicle technology," says Joe Golden of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, DC, US.

While Bruintjes favors weather modification he thinks China's methods for trying to do it are too crude and unscientific.

Bruintjes is skeptical of China's claims because they rely on the results of studies done in the 1960s and 70s before the complexity of Earth's weather was fully understood and there is little data to back-up claims of success.

"There is no evaluation, there is no scientific literature available that can substantiate their claims," he said.

Imagine what China will do once weather modification works well.

Bruintjes is trying to enhance rainfall in many parts of the world.

One of the world's leading experts on weather modification, Bruintjes has helped design cloud seeding and other weather modification programs on every continent except Antarctica. His work focuses primarily on attempts to enhance rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions of the world, including ongoing projects in Wyoming, Australia, Turkey, the Middle East, and West Africa. He has also consulted with Chinese experts about their programs in rainfall enhancement and prevention. In addition to evaluating various cloud seeding technologies, Bruintjes researches inadvertent weather modification, including the effects of smoke and pollution on clouds and rainfall.

People around the world are going to modify the weather. One can easily imagine conflicts between nations because a country that is more upstream causes water to come down on their territory leaving less water to rain down on a country that is more downstream.

A recent gathering of weather modification experts in Westminster Colorado called for a restart of research efforts to develop weather modification technologies.

It's high time the federal government fund research in modifying the weather to bring more rain to the thirsty West and to slow down deadly hurricanes, top scientists said Tuesday.

The brainpower is available, instrumentation is vastly improved, but the feds haven't funded weather-modification research since the mid-1990s, Joe Golden, a scientist specializing in atmospheric modification, said at an international symposium being held this week in Westminster.

The US Department of Homeland Security asked Joe Golden to gather together experts to discuss the idea of diverting hurricanes. Golden and his colleagues think research efforts should aim at diverting and weakening hurricanes.

The hurricane diversion argument seems compelling. Imagine that aircraft had seeded Hurricane Katrina before it approached the Louisiana coast. Tens of billions of dollars of damage might have been avoid.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 May 04 10:43 PM  Climate Engineering

Larry said at May 5, 2008 6:51 AM:

I don't get the upstream/downstream idea (unless you mean upwind/downwind), but otherwise I think weather modification is long overdue.

Generally I'm OK with the world deciding to freeride on American innovation (whether it be in drugs, weather, or anything else.) The government should increase its investment in research as long as the US can retain enough of the benefits to pay for it. I only wish other countries could figure that out...

Faruq Arshad said at May 5, 2008 12:19 PM:

There was a good BBC film about weather modification.Maybe you can stil view it on the BBC website. It was set in America and they were trying to divert a hurricane.
I think the problem with weather modification is chaos theory, in that you may stop rain in the short term,but maybe by doing so,in the long-run you set yourself up for something worse.

Steve said at January 27, 2009 1:04 AM:

The most well proven form of weather modification is cloud seeding to augment snowfall in high mountain areas. This snow melts and helps fill reservoirs for hydroelectric power generation and agricultural and municipal water supplies. The professional societies World Meteorological Organization and American Meteorological Society support this assertion. The practice of winter cloud seeding has been shown to be safe environmentally and it does not "rob" downwind areas of precipitation. See the following FAQ for details:

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