Weather control theories prove problematic

By Carly Niceley

Nature does some crazy, unpredictable and devastating things to mankind.

Think about all the natural disasters that have occurred in the past year, from rolling tsunamis to whirling hurricanes to devastating mud slides.

What if we had the ability to fight nature and actually change weather and natural disasters?

People have been trying to change weather through either magic, religion or science since before scientists began studying weather.

But science has come a long way since the days of rain dances and magical spells.

Microwaved tornadoes

Theories such as beaming microwaves into a tornado to destroy the tornado’s formation is one of the topics studied, but just how probable and safe is this idea?

“When an environment is suitable for a tornado it would take a lot of energy to disrupt something that powerful,” said Andrew Detwiler, an atmospheric sciences professor at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. “It would be like standing out in a highway and trying to stop a semi truck – you could do it but it would take a lot of energy.”

Humans intervening with natural forces could cause more negative feedback than positive, a result that can only really be found by doing it.

“How do you know that the thunderstorm you just zapped with the microwave wouldn’t have died out anyway? It’s a complex problem,” said Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel. “Let’s say you zapped a thunderstorm with microwaves, and later on that thunderstorm happened to get strong enough to produce a tornado. Can you imagine the lawsuits on that one?”

Sowing the seeds of clouds

After the severe drought this summer, it would be ideal to create rain for this area.

Another theory scientists have studied is cloud seeding. It involves putting chemicals, typically silver iodide, into clouds to condense their moisture into ice, which causes precipitation such as rain or snow. The chemicals are fired up from the ground or dropped from an aircraft.

“You seed clouds in Illinois to produce more rain locally and it wouldn’t be long before someone in Indiana sued for increasing rain in Illinois and therefore reducing the amount of rain that may have fallen downwind in Indiana,” Angel said.

NIU meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste disregards these theories and feels we should just let natural weather take its course and not try to control or stop it.

“We need the natural weather cycles to keep rains coming on a regular basis where they are needed, and arid regions dry where they are not, and still serve a useful purpose on the planet.” Sebenste said. “Leave the atmosphere alone. It seems to know what it is doing, even if it goes crazy sometimes.”