The Rainmaker

How to Manipulate the Forces of Nature

There have been many attempts to change the weather, but all of them, with the possible exception of cloud seeding to produce rain, have failed or been inconclusive.

Maybe these early pioneers just weren't thinking on a grand enough scale. A series of large orbiting satellites could capture enough solar energy to redirect hurricanes away from coastlines, and possibly reduce the strength of the winds. The idea is to pound parts of the atmosphere with microwaves, changing the thermal difference between the top and the bottom of the storm and thus weakening the eye. That theoretically should cause the most damaging winds to decrease. Some have suggested that a similar technique might be used to "side steer" a hurricane and keep it from making landfall. A small company in Manhattan Beach, Calif., called Solaren, applied for a patent for its "invention" in 2009 that company officials say could do just that.

But a patent at this point is merely an effort to protect intellectual property rights, and it doesn't mean we can forget about hurricanes in the future. Orbiting solar power plants may be a step toward manipulating hurricanes, but experts seriously doubt such a plan would work. The federal government tried its own hand at modifying hurricanes 40 years ago, which helps explain its skepticism. Project Stormfury seeded clouds just outside the eyewall of four hurricanes from 1961 to 1971 to see if a secondary storm could draw energy away from the twister. It didn't work, partly because scientists didn't fully understand the dynamics of a hurricane. So for now, hurricane manipulation is beyond our control, but what about global warming, a potentially greater long-term problem?


Is it possible we could take control of the atmosphere that we've damaged so severely?


Kemo D. 7

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