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The History of Weather Modification

Updated on May 21, 2014
1901 - International Congress, Hail Cannons
1901 - International Congress, Hail Cannons | Source
2007 - Hail Cannon, US
2007 - Hail Cannon, US | Source

In the Beginning

Attempts to modify the weather go back as far as the human record goes. The major shift occurred in the 1800s when practices and rituals to modify the weather began to change to using technology to modify the weather. In the picture to the right, you see what are referred to as hail cannons, which are shock wave generators claimed to disrupt the formation of hailstones in the atmosphere. These devices are still used today.

It was in the year of 1958 when the chief White House adviser on weather modification, Captain Howard T. Orville, stated that the "U.S. Defense Department was studying ways to manipulate the charges of the earth and sky and so effect the weather" by using an electronic beam to ionize or de-ionize the atmosphere over a specific area. Now, simply looking at the Wikipedia definition for weather modification proves quite interesting. Weather modification is defined as intentionally manipulating or altering the weather. The most common form of this, one that we have been conditioned to believe is normal, is cloud seeding to increase rain, snow, hail, or the 'local water supply' (insert chuckle here). The entry then goes on to mention that weather modification could also be used to prevent harmful weather or of provoking damaging weather against the enemy, as a tactic of military or economic warfare.

1966 - Project Stormfury Aviation Crew
1966 - Project Stormfury Aviation Crew | Source
Project's working hypothesis
Project's working hypothesis | Source
A Recommended National Program on Weather Modification (link to full document below)
A Recommended National Program on Weather Modification (link to full document below) | Source

Government Experiments

Project Cirrus - This project was the first attempt to modify a hurricane. It was a collaborative effort between General Electric Corporation, the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the Office of Naval Research, and the U.S. Air Force. Several parties involved were rightly skeptical about this project but the first attempt was made in October of 1947. The plane flew alongside the storm clouds that were headed west to east out to sea and dumped 180 lbs of dry ice. Next, the hurricane changed directions and made landfall near Savannah, Georgia. And here we have our first weaponized hurricane on record.

Project Stormfury - This project was an attempt to weaken tropical cyclones by flying aircraft into them and seeding with silver iodide. The project was run by the U.S. Government and went on from 1962 to 1983. It was this ongoing project that allowed the government to do the majority of their weather modification experimentation.

ESSA 1-9 Program - The Environmental Science Services Administration sent a satellite spacecraft into orbit in 1966 to capture cloud-cover activity. There were 9 different satellites launched over a period of a decade, which captured enough data to help them "predict the weather".

Project BATON - In 1962, "guinea pig" storms were selected and seeded with different chemicals for experimentation and comparison on their effect upon the weather. In 1963, Hurricane Beulah provided a perfect testing storm for this project but apparently mistakes were made and silver iodide was dropped in the wrong place. The next was Hurricane Betsy, which is surrounded by quite a bit of controversy. There was planned cloud seeding for this storm and shortly after the project began, the hurricane once again turned inland. The media ran that the project began but once news hit that the hurricane had changed directions toward the U.S., the media attempted to retract their statement and went on to claim that they never had any involvement with the sudden drastic change of Hurricane Betsy.

These are only examples from 40 or more years ago. What do you think this means for us today?

Weather Modification - History Channel


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