China’s recent attempt to manipulate the weather has drawn criticism from Americans, who could probably benefit from a history lesson.
According to Bloomberg, China recently launched sixteen “artificial rain enhancement rockets” off the back of ute into the great blue yonder. As the publication put it, “The operation, ordered up by the Juye County Meteorological Bureau in response to a local drought, was reportedly a success. Over the next 24 hours, the county received more than two inches of rain that, according to local officials, alleviated the drought, lowered the risk of forest fires and improved air quality.”
Earlier this month, China announced plans to increase rainfall manupilation, and aims to cover nearly 60% of the country by 2025. However, the finer details are lacking. As the publication noted: “Details are sketchy, but fears are rising about the potential military uses of these capabilities, and their effects on an already changing climate.”
While Bloomberg painted in the gloomy hues of coming trouble, waving a nervous finger at those responsible, suggesting that, “…convincing China and others to share their technology and intentions won’t be easy. But unless the world gets a handle on this looming problem, it could face some dark clouds ahead.”
However, today’s headlines echoes yesterday’s paranoia, as fearing communist control of the weather is a Cold War-era relic long left out in the rain.
The December 11, 1950 Charleston Daily Mail ran a short article quoting Dr. Irving Langmuir, who was involved with the earliest American weather-manipulation experiments, which involved scientists lobbing three pounds of frozen carbon dioxide into the clouds:
“Rainmaking” or weather control can be as powerful a war weapon as the atom bomb, a Nobel prize winning physicist said today.
Dr. Irving Langmuir, pioneer in “rainmaking,” said the government should seize on the phenomenon of weather control as it did on atomic energy when Albert Einstein told the late President Roosevelt in 1939 of the potential power of an atom-splitting weapon.
“In the amount of energy liberated, the effect of 30 milligrams of silver iodide under optimum conditions equals that of one atomic bomb,” Langmuir said.
Wind the clock forward to 1954, and an Associated Press article by science reporter Frank Carey, aimed to explain how and why control of the weather would offer a unique strategic advantage to the United States: “It may someday be possible to cause torrents of rain over Russia by seeding clouds moving toward the Soviet Union. Or it may be possible — if an opposite effect is desired — to cause destructive droughts which dry up food crops by ‘overseeding’ those same clouds. And fortunately for the United States, Russia could do little to retaliate because most weather moves from west to east,” he wrote.
What a terrifying time to live through.
However, it seems the Americans care not for the wind changing direction, as a 1989 Washington Post article (sensationally titled ‘SOVIETS EXPERIMENT WITH WEATHER’), put it: “The Soviet Union could launch a ‘weather war’ against the United States and, because of the whimsy of weather patterns, Americans wouldn’t even know it. The notion sounds like fantasy, but scientists say it is true.”
For those playing at home, Bloomberg in 2020, wrote: “It sounds like something out of a cartoon. But for decades, China has been home to one of the world’s most advanced weather-modification programs. Generally, its goals have been modest: more rain in arid places, less field-destroying hail and sunny days for big national events. But that modesty is starting to give way.”
While manipulation of the weather for military purposes has been outlawed since 1978, it seems that long-held fears have not dissipated. As Bob Dylan put it, we don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.