Have you ever looked up at dark clouds rolling in and wished you could wave them away? Although weather manipulation on a personal level exists only in fiction, weather machine technology on a bigger scale is already on the horizon. Based around cloud modification, Business Insider notes that around the world, many countries are working on controlling their weather.
Man-Made Weather Manipulation
Although it sounds like science fiction, weather machines are in action around the world already, influencing factors such as rainfall, storm severity and snowpack. Most of these rely on cloud seeding techniques that force clouds to rain.
For example, China is investing heavily in large projects to ensure sufficient agricultural water supply. News Corp Australia describes vast ground-based cauldrons or burners that release rain-making silver iodide particles into updrafts. As part of the “Skyriver” project, around 500 artificial rainmaking machines near the Tibetan plateau will cover an area larger than Alaska. Business Insider estimates rainfall of around 10 billion cubic meters.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also investigating weather manipulation. Since large parts of the country are arid, there is great stress on groundwater supplies in areas with low rainfall and high evaporation rates. According to the Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, UAE researchers are looking into aircraft dispersal cloud seeding to increase rainfall and improve the freshwater supply.
The Alberta government in Canada also uses cloud seeding to modify precipitation. Its hail suppression program uses aircraft to launch dispersal agents into storm clouds and reduce the size of hail. According to Chemical and Engineering News, the use of silver iodide seeding was able to reduce hail storm severity above Alberta by 27 percent.
How Weather Machine Technology Works
The technology behind the current battery of weather machines relies on cloud seeding: Spraying agents such as dry ice, silver or potassium iodide or pure salt crystals into rain-bearing clouds speeds up droplet formation. The particles dispersed from aircraft or rockets act as nuclei for water droplets already present in the cloud. As water gathers around the nuclei, they become too heavy, and gravity takes over.
This technique also makes snow. In The Conversation, two researchers described how clouds grew ice crystals following silver iodide seeding. Using wing-mounted sensors, they followed crystal formation along the path taken by an aircraft spraying silver iodide through the cloud. Areas that were not seeded did not form crystals.
Weather Control for Climate Change
Understanding how weather is made and how it can be manipulated could be valuable in the future. Of course, good snowfall is a boon to ski resorts, but it is also valuable in areas that regularly experience summer drought. Building up seasonal snowpack increases meltwater abundance for the spring and summer water supplies.
Other types of weather machines could also reduce storm intensity. Although the National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) acknowledges that cloud seeding for hurricane suppression has been unsuccessful, other weather machines could have success in the future.
Bubbles for Hurricane Suppression
Ocean temperatures drive hurricane formation, as a storm’s intensity depends on warm water at the surface. Making it cooler could, in theory, diminish the power of a hurricane.
An ocean weather machine that produces bubble curtains, bringing cooler water from the depths, could reduce surface temperature. Newsweek describes a system of perforated pipes blowing bubbles from 100 to 150 meters deep that lift cold water to cool the surface. Similar technology is already in place in Norwegian fjords to stop them from freezing in the winter, but here the bubbles bring warmer water to the cooler wintry surface.
Another suggestion blocks ocean warming in the hurricane’s path by making brighter clouds to deflect sunlight. Loading clouds up with small water droplets makes them more reflective. Vox describes a theoretical prototype that sprays salt water plumes from floating weather machines positioned in the hurricane path. The machine’s inventor however, acknowledges that so far, success exists only in computer models.
Although fine control of our weather is still only available in films, research into weather forecasting has advanced in the last few decades. Breakthroughs in technology have improved prediction science and facilitated data gathering to reveal how and why weather happens. This exciting innovation could help refine weather manipulation, with the potential that weather machines could help mitigate climate change.
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