April 19, 2014
Willing To Use Lasers To Cause Rain?

If lasers can be used to cause rain and you are living in a drought region are you up for some local weather engineering?

The adage "Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it," may one day be obsolete if researchers at the University of Central Florida's College of Optics & Photonics and the University of Arizona further develop a new technique to aim a high-energy laser beam into clouds to make it rain or trigger lightning.

The solution? Surround the beam with a second beam to act as an energy reservoir, sustaining the central beam to greater distances than previously possible. The secondary "dress" beam refuels and helps prevent the dissipation of the high-intensity primary beam, which on its own would break down quickly. A report on the project, "Externally refueled optical filaments," was recently published in Nature Photonics.

Water condensation and lightning activity in clouds are linked to large amounts of static charged particles. Stimulating those particles with the right kind of laser holds the key to possibly one day summoning a shower when and where it is needed.

The American West could find itself in a prolonged drought since really massive droughts occur naturally and can last for over a century. Past megadroughts occurred before the American West became densely populated. American and Canadian Westerners: Are you willing to go to extreme lengths to deal with a drought? I'm not talking about lasers. My suspicion is that come the next megadrought the air will be too dry for lasers to pull much water out of the air.

What I have in mind: Nuclear power plants built along the North American coast line to provide the power to pump salt water hundreds of miles inland to massive (really massive) evaporation lakes. The salt will stay behind as the fresh water goes into the air to come back down when it reaches mountain ranges. We should aim for enough water to make the Colorado River flow higher than it has before and for the Missouri River Basin and the Saskatchewan River Basin in Alberta to get very hefty flows or rain run-off from evaporated and then precipitated salt water.

Coastal regions can survive in desalinated water. But further inland the need for water (especially for agriculture) is much greater. Can large evaporation lakes be built on fairly flat regions? I'm thinking, for example, desert areas in Nevada that are sparsely populated.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 April 19 07:07 PM 

Kenneth t.Kendrick said at April 20, 2014 1:39 PM:

I think pumping salt water inland is a really bad idea.There have been recent reports that graphene oxide has the potential to filter salt from seawater.I think that is the way to go.

Ronald Brak said at April 21, 2014 1:14 AM:

The energy costs of pumping water hundreds of miles inland are so high that you may as well desalinate it first. If electricity is 5 cents a kilowatt-hour it might cost a buck to pipe a tonne of seawater 500km which is maybe twice what it would cost to desalinate. (Someone more pipe orientated would need to check this.) So it would make more sense to pipe fresh water which can be used directly than to pump seawater and let it evaporate and hope that it will result in rain where it is needed. Note that piped in freshwater used for agriculture etc. would also evaporate and potentially contribute to rain where it is wanted.

Ronald Brak said at April 23, 2014 12:12 AM:

Had a look at a map to see if there was any convenient water source that could be used to replenish the Ogallala Aquifier in the US. It doesn't look like it. I was going to say that the US needs to cut back consumption to its recharge refresh rate, but it replenishes astoundingly slowly. But still, pumping water into the aquifier could be a cheaper option than what will happen when farms and towns are left high and dry by the retreating aquifier.

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