Weather modification

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A tornado near Anadarko, Oklahoma during the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak. Weather researchers may aspire to eliminate or control dangerous types of weather such as this. Dszpics1.jpg
A tornado near Anadarko, Oklahoma during the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak. Weather researchers may aspire to eliminate or control dangerous types of weather such as this.

A weather modification (also known as weather control) is the act of intentionally manipulating or altering the weather. The most common form of weather modification is cloud seeding, which increases rain or snow, usually for the purpose of increasing the local water supply. [1] Weather modification can also have the goal of preventing damaging weather, such as hail or hurricanes, from occurring; or of provoking damaging weather against the enemy, as a tactic of military or economic warfare like Operation Popeye, where clouds were seeded to prolong the monsoon in Vietnam. Weather modification in warfare has been banned by the United Nations under Environmental Modification Convention.



A popular belief in northern Europe that shooting prevents hail caused many agricultural towns to fire cannons without ammunition. Veterans of the Seven Years' War, Napoleonic wars, and the American Civil War reported that rain fell after every large battle. After their stories were collected in War and Weather, the United States Department of War in the late 19th century purchased $9,000 of gunpowder and explosives to detonate them in Texas. The results of the test, supervised by Robert Dyrenforth, were inconclusive. [2]

Wilhelm Reich performed cloudbusting experiments in the 1950s, the results of which are controversial and not widely accepted by mainstream science.

In November 1955, the Thailand Royal Rainmaking Project (Thai: โครงการฝนหลวง) was initiated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He discovered that many areas faced the problem of drought. Over 82 percent of Thai agricultural land relied on rainfall. Thai farmers were not able to grow crops for lack of water. The royal rainmaking project debuted on 20 July 1969 at his behest, when the first rainmaking attempt was made at Khao Yai National Park. Dry ice flakes were scattered over clouds. Reportedly, some rainfall resulted. In 1971, the government established the Artificial Rainmaking Research and Development Project within the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives [3] [ circular reference ]

In January 2011, several newspapers and magazines, including the UK's Sunday Times and Arabian Business, reported that scientists backed by the government of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, had created over 50 artificial rainstorms between July and August 2010 near Al Ain, a city which lies close to the country's border with Oman and is the second-largest city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. The artificial rainstorms were said to have sometimes caused hail, gales and thunderstorms, baffling local residents. [4] The scientists reportedly used ionizers to create the rainstorms, and although the results are disputed, the large number of times it is recorded to have rained right after the ionizers were switched on during a usually dry season is encouraging to those who support the experiment. [5] [ deprecated source ]

Cloud seeding

Cloud seeding Cloud Seeding.svg
Cloud seeding

Cloud seeding is a common technique to enhance precipitation. Cloud seeding entails spraying small particles, such as silver iodide, onto clouds to affect their development, usually with the goal of increasing precipitation. Cloud seeding only works to the extent that there is already water vapor present in the air. Critics generally contend that claimed successes occur in conditions which were going to lead to rain anyway. It is used in a variety of drought-prone countries, including the United States, China, India, and Russia. In China there is a perceived dependency upon it in dry regions, and there is a strong suspicion it is used to "wash the air" in dry and heavily polluted places, such as Beijing. [6] In mountainous areas of the United States such as the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, [7] cloud seeding has been employed since the 1950s.

"China is launching the world's largest weather-control machine, with the ability to modify the weather in an area similar to the size of Alaska. China has never shied away from doing things on a massive scale and this is yet another example of the Chinese government working on an unprecedented scale". [8] China estimates it to produce up to 10 billion cubic meters of rainfall each year. For comparison, more than 30 countries get less than 10 billion cubic meters of precipitation per year. [9]

Saudi Arabia has been cloud seeding since the 2000s and aims to increase rainfall by 15-30% per year. The material used is: potassium chloride, sodium chloride, magnesium, and other materials. [10]

"In the first three months of 2017, the country carried out 101 cloud seeding operations, compared to 77 over the same period in 2014, according to Arabian Business, who wrote that during March last year when the country had two months of “unusually wet weather” and more rainfall was recorded in Dubai and Al Ain than when records began in 1977." [11]



Without having adequate systems to handle weather modification may have disastrous consequences. "In the city of Jeddah in Western Saudi Arabia was damaged by floods in 2009 that reportedly killed more than 100 people; igniting questions of why the country doesn’t have effective drainage systems in place." [12]


The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that the silver iodide has no known “ill effects” on people, although people’s “hands may have remained yellowed for weeks” after being exposed to it. [13]

Storm prevention

Hail cannons at an international congress on hail shooting held in 1901 International congress on hail shooting.jpg
Hail cannons at an international congress on hail shooting held in 1901

Project Stormfury was an attempt to weaken tropical cyclones by flying aircraft into storms and seeding the eyewall with silver iodide. The project was run by the United States Government from 1962 to 1983. A similar project using soot was run in 1958, with inconclusive results. [14] Various methods have been proposed to reduce the harmful effects of hurricanes. Moshe Alamaro of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [15] proposed using barges with upward-pointing jet engines to trigger smaller storms to disrupt the progress of an incoming hurricane; critics doubt the jets would be powerful enough to make any noticeable difference. [14]

Alexandre Chorin of the University of California, Berkeley, proposed dropping large amounts of environmentally friendly oils on the sea surface to prevent droplet formation. [16] Experiments by Kerry Emanuel [17] of MIT in 2002 suggested that hurricane-force winds would disrupt the oil slick, making it ineffective. [14] Other scientists disputed the factual basis of the theoretical mechanism assumed by this approach. [16]

The Florida company Dyn-O-Mat and its CEO, Peter Cordani, proposed the use of a patented product it developed, called Dyn-O-Gel, to reduce the strength of hurricanes. The substance is a polymer in powder form (a polyacrylic acid derivative) which reportedly has the ability to absorb 1,500 times its own weight in water. The theory is that the polymer is dropped into clouds to remove their moisture and force the storm to use more energy to move the heavier water drops, thus helping to dissipate the storm. When the gel reaches the ocean surface, it is reportedly dissolved. Peter Cordani teamed up with Mark Daniels and Victor Miller, the owners of a government contracting aviation firm AeroGroup which operated ex-military aircraft commercially. Using a high altitude B-57 Bomber, AeroGroup tested the substance dropping 9,000 pounds from the B-57 aircraft's large bomb bay disbursing it into a large thunderstorm cell just off the east coast of Florida. The tests were documented on film and made international news showing the storms were successfully removed on monitored Doppler radar. In 2003, the program was shut down because of political pressure through NOAA. [18] Numerical simulations performed by NOAA showed however that it would not be a practical solution for large systems like a tropical cyclone. [19]

Hail cannons have been used by some farmers since the 19th century in an attempt to ward off hail, but there is no reliable scientific evidence to confirm their effectiveness. Another new anti-hurricane technology [20] is a method for the reduction of tropical cyclones' destructive force – pumping sea water into and diffusing it in the wind at the bottom of such tropical cyclone in its eye wall.

Hurricane modification

NOAA published a page addressing various ideas in regards to tropical cyclone manipulation.

In 2007, "How to stop a hurricane" [21] explored various ideas such as:

Researchers from NOAA's hurricane research division addressed hurricane control based ideas. [22]

Later ideas (2017) include laser inversion along the same lines as laser cooling (normally used at cryogenic temperatures) but intended to cool the top 1mm of water. If enough power was used then it might be enough combined with computer modeling to form an interference pattern able to inhibit a hurricane or significantly reduce its strength by depriving it of heat energy. [23] [24]

In the military

Operation Popeye was a highly classified operation run by the US military in 1967-1972. [25] The purpose was to prolong Monsoon in Southeast Asia. The overwhelming precipitation successfully disrupted the tactical logistics of Vietnamese army. Operation Popeye is believed as the first successful practice of weather modification technology in warfare. After it was unveiled, weather modification in warfare was banned by the Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD). [26]

In "Benign Weather Modification" published March 1997, Air Force Major Barry B. Coble superficially documents the existence of weather modification science where he traces the developments that have occurred, notably, in the hands of the Pentagon and CIA's staunchest ideological enemies.

In the 1990s a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force Ronald R. Fogleman was issued to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States would require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future.

In law

US and Canada agreement

In 1975, the US and Canada entered into an agreement under the auspices of the United Nations for the exchange of information on weather modification activity. [30]

1977 UN Environmental Modification Convention

Weather modification, particularly hostile weather warfare, was addressed by the "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/72, TIAS 9614 Convention [31] on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques." The Convention was signed in Geneva on May 18, 1977; entered into force on October 5, 1978; ratified by U.S. President Jimmy Carter on December 13, 1979; and the U.S. ratification deposited at New York January 17, 1980. [32]

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps records of weather modification projects on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, under authority of Public Law 92-205, 15 USC § 330B, enacted in 1971. [33]

Proposed US legislation

2005 U.S. Senate Bill 517 and U.S. House Bill 2995 U.S. Senate Bill 517 [34] and U.S. House Bill 2995 [35] were two bills proposed in 2005 that would have expanded experimental weather modification, to establish a Weather Modification Operations and Research Board, and implemented a national weather modification policy. Neither were made into law.

2007 U.S. Senate Bill 1807 & U.S. House Bill 3445 Senate Bill 1807 and House Bill 3445, identical bills introduced July 17, 2007, proposed to establish a Weather Mitigation Advisory and Research Board to fund weather modification research [36] [37]

In religion and mythology

Witches concoct a brew to summon a hailstorm. Witches add ingredients to a cauldron.JPG
Witches concoct a brew to summon a hailstorm.

Magical and religious practices to control the weather are attested in a variety of cultures. In ancient India it is said that yajna or vedic rituals of chanting mantras and offering were performed by rishis to bring sudden bursts of rain fall in rain starved regions. Some Indigenous Americans, like some Europeans, had rituals which they believed could induce rain. The Finnish people, on the other hand, were believed by others to be able to control weather. As a result, Vikings refused to take Finns on their oceangoing raids. Remnants of this superstition lasted into the twentieth century, with some ship crews being reluctant to accept Finnish sailors.

The early modern era saw people observe that during battles the firing of cannons and other firearms often initiated precipitation.

In Greek mythology, Iphigenia was offered as a human sacrifice to appease the wrath of the goddess Artemis, who had becalmed the Achaean fleet at Aulis at the beginning of the Trojan War. In Homer's Odyssey , Aeolus, keeper of the winds, bestowed Odysseus and his crew with a gift of the four winds in a bag. However, the sailors opened the bag while Odysseus slept, looking for booty (money), and as a result were blown off course by the resulting gale. [38] In ancient Rome, the lapis manalis was a sacred stone kept outside the walls of Rome in a temple of Mars. When Rome suffered from drought, the stone was dragged into the city. [39] The Berwick witches of Scotland were found guilty of using black magic to summon storms to murder King James VI of Scotland by seeking to sink the ship upon which he travelled. [40] Scandinavian witches allegedly claimed to sell the wind in bags or magically confined into wooden staves; they sold the bags to seamen who could release them when becalmed. [41] In various towns of Navarre, prayers petitioned Saint Peter to grant rain in time of drought. If the rain was not forthcoming, the statue of St Peter was removed from the church and tossed into a river.

In the Jewish Scriptures, otherwise known as the Old Testament, it is recorded that Elijah in the way of judgement, told King Ahab that neither dew nor rain would fall until Elijah called for it. [42] It is further recorded that the ensuing drought lasted for a period of 3.5 years at which time Elijah called the rains to come again and the land was restored. [43] The Christian Bible in the New Testament records Jesus Christ controlling a storm by speaking to it. [44]

In Islam,Salat Al-Istisqa’ (Prayer for Rain)is taken as recourse when seeking rain from God during times of drought. [45]

In literature

Frank Herbert's Dune series features weather control technology, mainly in the planets of Arrakis, where the technology is used to assure for privacy from observation and in order to hide from the Imperium their true population and their plans to terraform the planet, and in Chapterhouse, where the Bene Gesserit intend to turn the planet into a desert.

See also

Related Research Articles

Storm any disturbed state of an astronomical bodys atmosphere

A storm is any disturbed state of a body especially affecting its surface, and strongly implying a wind force. It may be marked by significant disruptions and lightning, heavy precipitation, heavy freezing rain, strong winds, or wind transporting some substance through the atmosphere as in a dust storm, blizzard, sandstorm, etc.

Precipitation Product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapour that falls under gravity

In meteorology, precipitation is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapour that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation include drizzle, rain, sleet, snow, graupel and hail. Precipitation occurs when a portion of the atmosphere becomes saturated with water vapor, so that the water condenses and "precipitates". Thus, fog and mist are not precipitation but suspensions, because the water vapor does not condense sufficiently to precipitate. Two processes, possibly acting together, can lead to air becoming saturated: cooling the air or adding water vapor to the air. Precipitation forms as smaller droplets coalesce via collision with other rain drops or ice crystals within a cloud. Short, intense periods of rain in scattered locations are called "showers."

Cloud seeding form of weather modification

Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that aims to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud. The usual intent is to increase precipitation, but hail and fog suppression are also widely practised in airports where harsh weather conditions are experienced.

Project Stormfury NOAA weather modification program.

Project Stormfury was an attempt to weaken tropical cyclones by flying aircraft into them and seeding with silver iodide. The project was run by the United States Government from 1962 to 1983. The hypothesis was that the silver iodide would cause supercooled water in the storm to freeze, disrupting the inner structure of the hurricane, and this led to seeding several Atlantic hurricanes. However, it was later shown that this hypothesis was incorrect. It was determined that most hurricanes do not contain enough supercooled water for cloud seeding to be effective. Additionally, researchers found that unseeded hurricanes often undergo the same structural changes that were expected from seeded hurricanes. This finding called Stormfury's successes into question, as the changes reported now had a natural explanation.

This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.

Rainmaking, also known as artificial precipitation, artificial rainfall and pluviculture, is the act of attempting to artificially induce or increase precipitation, usually to stave off drought or the wider global warming. According to the clouds' different physical properties, this can be done using airplanes or rockets to sow to the clouds with catalysts such as dry ice, silver iodide and salt powder, to make clouds rain or increase precipitation, to remove or mitigate farmland drought, to increase reservoir irrigation water or water supply capacity, to increase water levels for power generation, or even to solve the global warming problem.


A rainband is a cloud and precipitation structure associated with an area of rainfall which is significantly elongated. Rainbands can be stratiform or convective, and are generated by differences in temperature. When noted on weather radar imagery, this precipitation elongation is referred to as banded structure. Rainbands within tropical cyclones are curved in orientation. Tropical cyclone rainbands contain showers and thunderstorms that, together with the eyewall and the eye, constitute a hurricane or tropical storm. The extent of rainbands around a tropical cyclone can help determine the cyclone's intensity.

Eye (cyclone) region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 kilometres (19–40 mi) in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye and can be as much as 15 percent lower than the pressure outside the storm.

Tropical cyclone rotating storm system with a closed, low-level circulation

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain or squalls. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

Operation Popeye was a highly classified weather modification program in Southeast Asia during 1967–1972. The cloud seeding operation during the Vietnam War ran from March 20, 1967 until July 5, 1972 in an attempt to extend the monsoon season, specifically over areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The operation was used to induce rain and extend the East Asian Monsoon season in support of U.S. government efforts related to the War in Southeast Asia.

Severe weather UNO Ashley Hamilton

Severe weather refers to any dangerous meteorological phenomena with the potential to cause damage, serious social disruption, or loss of human life. Types of severe weather phenomena vary, depending on the latitude, altitude, topography, and atmospheric conditions. High winds, hail, excessive precipitation, and wildfires are forms and effects of severe weather, as are thunderstorms, downbursts, tornadoes, waterspouts, tropical cyclones, and extratropical cyclones. Regional and seasonal severe weather phenomena include blizzards (snowstorms), ice storms, and duststorms.

Outflow (meteorology) air that flows outwards from a storm system

Outflow, in meteorology, is air that flows outwards from a storm system. It is associated with ridging, or anticyclonic flow. In the low levels of the troposphere, outflow radiates from thunderstorms in the form of a wedge of rain-cooled air, which is visible as a thin rope-like cloud on weather satellite imagery or a fine line on weather radar imagery. Low-level outflow boundaries can disrupt the center of small tropical cyclones. However, outflow aloft is essential for the strengthening of a tropical cyclone. If this outflow is undercut, the tropical cyclone weakens. If two tropical cyclones are in proximity, the upper level outflow from the system to the west can limit the development of the system to the east.

The Beijing Weather Modification Office is a unit of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau tasked with weather control in Beijing, China, and its surrounding areas, including parts of Hebei and Inner Mongolia.

Outline of meteorology Overview of and topical guide to meteorology

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Rain liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated

Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then become heavy enough to fall under gravity. Rain is a major component of the water cycle and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the Earth. It provides suitable conditions for many types of ecosystems, as well as water for hydroelectric power plants and crop irrigation.

Tropical convective clouds play an important part in the Earth's climate system. Convection and release of latent heat transports energy from the surface into the upper atmosphere. Clouds have a higher albedo than the underlying ocean, which causes more incoming solar radiation to be reflected back to space. Since the tops of tropical systems are much cooler than the surface of the Earth, the presence of high convective clouds cools the climate system.

The following is a glossary of tornado terms. It includes scientific as well as selected informal terminology.

The California drought manipulation conspiracy theory is promoted by a number of independent researchers, self-proclaimed scientists, and alternative news outlets. The theory proposes that the 2011–2017 drought was a deliberate, man-made phenomenon, created by weather modification. The theory has been dismissed by the scientific community and mainstream media as fringe science or pseudoscience.

Royal Rainmaking Project

The Thailand Royal Rainmaking Project was initiated in November 1955 by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thai farmers repeatedly suffered the effects of drought. The king resolved to do something about it and proposed a solution to the dearth of rain: artificial rainmaking, or cloud seeding. The program is run by the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation.

Glossary of meteorology Wikimedia list article

This glossary of meteorology is a list of terms and concepts relevant to meteorology and atmospheric science, their sub-disciplines, and related fields.


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Further reading