Modifying the Earth

This article briefly summarizes solar radiation management and weather modification— and discusses their potential effects on weather, climate and environment.

Geoengineering (with or without the hyphen) in general is the deliberate modification of the Earth (or any planet) to suit human needs. Geoengineering could be approached any number of ways.

Climate engineering, as scientists discuss it today, is the attempt to find ways to adjust Earth's climate to counter the effects of climate change.

"CO2 stays in the upper atmosphere indefinitely... if we stopped all global emissions today, we'd still be screwed." Dr. Julio Friedman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal, Office of Fossil Energy at US Department of Energy

Most scientists today believe that anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is primarily the result of a global warming pattern induced by the greenhouse effect, which is caused by a buildup of CO2 gas in the atmosphere. Therefore, current climate engineering discussions involve four main ideas in general1:

  1. CO2 emissions reduction
  2. CO2 removal
  3. Alternative energy sources
  4. Solar radiation management (SRM)

However, when we discuss climate engineering (more commonly but less accurately referred to as "geoengineering"), the focus is on solar radiation management because:

  1. We have very little chance of creating any impact through CO2 reduction;
  2. We have no practical way to remove and sequester enough CO2 to make an impact;
  3. So far our alternative energy sources are not making a significant impact;
  4. Solar radiation management (SRM) is the only "solution" that we can actually execute to make a significant impact on the climate.

Of the many different innovative SRM ideas proposed, two techniques have been considered practical enough to employ. One is experimental and has not yet been tried on a large scale; the other has already been used for many decades.

SRM through Weather Modification
Most of the western states in the US have ongoing weather modification programs that use atmospheric cloud seeding for precipitation enhancement, as do most industrialized counties around the world.2 Some states have been using cloud seeding to increase water supplies since the 1960s, when silver iodide cloud seeding began.

Weather modification programs around the world use cloud seeding for precipitation enhancement, but it's also been proposed as a solar radiation management technique.

Deliberate Artificial Cloud Production
Some climate engineers have theorized that increasing the abundance of clouds would also increase the Earth's albedo (brightness) and deflect some solar radiation back into space. This approach uses cloud seeding techniques (salt-based chemical aerosols) to thicken clouds by increasing the amount of cloud condensation nuclei for moisture to bond with. However, experiments so far have achieved minimal results as far as proving this approach helps at all.3

But there's a much bigger problem with this method, too. More clouds also means more insulation, which helps to keep heat from radiating away from the planet's surface. That means the more daytime temperatures decrease to due shade, the more nighttime temperatures increase because of additional insulation.

Inadverent Artificial Cloud Production
Worse yet, the aerosol chemicals (AgI flares that are regularly used in routine, non-experimental weather modification practices) combine with the moisture from jet aircraft exhaust, frequently spawning thick contrail clouds at higher altitudes. This creates a double layer of cloud insulation that traps heat more effectively. According to the Vonnegut Theory, these artificial clouds created by aircraft are the primary cause of global warming patterns and climate change.

"The climate change we talk about... in other words, "global warming"... well, yes, but if we get rid of these man-made clouds from the jets, we're going to cool down. Because a clear sky allows the heat to radiate away from the Earth." Rosalind Peterson, President and Co-Founder of the Agriculture Defense Coalition

Creating Superstorms
Ongoing high-altitude weather modification programs to enhance precipitation thicken clouds and increase cloud cover, and also contribute to cloud production in cloudless areas in front of storms. When thick artificial clouds are formed, they shade the ground, reducing the temperature and air pressure below them. This also produces and accelerates wind. Since the jet stream usually carries western weather eastward, intensifying storms throughout the Western United States may increasing the potential for floods and extreme weather in the eastern states.

"None of the climate experts I've spoken with have been aware of important facts about the widepread weather modification programs that exist in the United States and in almost any country you can name." Dave Dahl, Cloud Researcher

The "Stratospheric Sunscreen"
Climatologists have been proposing a second kind of SRM. Instead of enhancing clouds, this method would involve creating sulfur or metallic aerosol clouds in the upper atmosphere. As of 2014, no documented government programs have been conducted using this technique, but many climate scientists believe large-scale aerosol operations are the only way to reduce solar radiation and stop global warming trends.

"One technique that we do know works for sure is putting aerosols in the stratosphere. We know that we could put enough aerosols to more than offset doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere." Dr. Jane Long, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Center for Global Strategic Research

The idea of stratospheric aerosol distribution is to achieve a "volcano effect" in which solar radiation is blocked by clouds of sulfur (sulfur dioxide is most commonly proposed), dispersed by aircraft. But there are many complications and problems with this approach, and there's potential for huge, unpredictable negative consequences.

One of the main problems might be that climatologists and would-be climate engineers seem to be unaware of important facts about existing aerosol operations, including how many weather modification programs exists, the amount of cloud-thickening chemicals already being added to the atmosphere, and the effects of these ongoing programs on the weather and climate.

"Government agencies want to blame tree decline on climate change, without realizing that we're engaging in weather modification programs across the United States." Rosalind Peterson, President and Co-Founder of the Agriculture Defense Coalition

Cloud seeding to enhance precipitation ("weather modification") has become a standard way to increase water supplies. Because water supplies are low in most arid regions, weather modification companies are hired to seed clouds to increase rain and snowpack.

Cloud seeding is most commonly accomplished by igniting flares in the atmosphere that emit silver iodide— silver nitrate and potassium iodide— to increase the abundance of cloud condensation nuclei, which "thickens" storm clouds. These flares also contain toxic incendiary chemicals, including magnesium, strontium and aluminum.

The most immediate concern might be the effects on the soil. The result of continuously adding potassium iodide chemicals (the primary material in cloud seeding flares) to the soil is drastically increased pH levels. Some scientists believe the buildup of these cloud-seeding chemicals in the soil has caused massive tree die-offs through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where heavy cloud seeding has been conducted every year for over half a century.

"Stress and die-back has occured from Alaska to Mexico. Since 1997, nearly twenty million hectares or fifty million acres have been affected." Allan Buckman, biologist, former environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish & Game

And there are many more potentially devastating consequences of interrupting natural atmospheric processes, including increased lung disease and the effects on insects, animals and agriculture as the aerosolized metal chemicals continue to build up in the environment.

Read more about artificial clouds and climate change


Sources Cited:

  1. Dare We Try to Engineer Earth's Climate?
  2. The Effects of Artificial Clouds on Climate
  3. Climate Response to a Geoengineered Brightening

Additional Resources
  1. * NASA: The Importance of Understanding Clouds
  2. Active Climate Stabilization: Practical Physics-Based Approaches...
  3. Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment
  4. Aerosols: More Than Meets the Eye
  5. AMS Statement of Climate Change
  6. AMS Policy on Climate Services
  7. AMS Committee on Atmospheric Radiation
  8. An Interpretation of the Mechanisms of Ice Crystal Formation...
  9. Artificial Rain Soothes Maharashtra
  10. Artificial Snowfall from Mountain Clouds
  11. Artificial Rain Soothes Maharashtra
  12. Assembly Resolutions In Force
  13. Atmospherics, Inc.
  14. Availability of Groundwater Data for California
  15. Aviation Investment and Modernization Act of 2007
  16. Bangalore: Monsoon Plays Truant - Government Mulls Cloud Seeding
  17. Bias Corrected and Downscaled WCRP
  18. Can Simulated Volcanic Eruptions Reverse Global Warming? (Video)
  19. A Case Study of Jet Stream Clouds
  20. A Case Study of Mesoscale and Plume Dispersion
  21. Climate Response to a Geoengineered Brightening of Subtropical...
  22. Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007
  24. Cloud seeding effort adds extra pilot and new hangar
  25. Cloud seeding: taking off in West Africa
  26. CMIP3 Climate and Hydrology Projections
  27. Contrails reduce daily temperature range
  28. Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use...
  29. Costs and benefits of geo-engineering in the Stratosphere
  30. Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP)
  31. Craghan, Michael, Physical Geography
  32. Critical Issues in Weather Modification Research
  33. Crystal Face Project
  34. Declining Snowpack in Western North America
  35. Drinking Water Treatment and Distribution
  36. Drought in the Upper Colorado River Basin
  37. Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States (EPA)
  38. Environmental Impacts of Precipitation Enhancement: Results and...
  39. Federal Aviation Administration Facility Consolidation Moratorium Act of 2007
  40. Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007
  41. Flannery, Tim, The Weather Makers
  42. Global Warming and Ice Ages
  43. Geoengineering: Destroying the Atmosphere (Video)
  44. The Geoengineering Option
  45. Geoengineering Volcanic Eruptions to Fight Climate Change (Video)
  46. History of cloud seeding
  47. Houghton , John, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing
  48. How Good Are Our Conceptual Models of Orographic Cloud Seeding?
  49. Idaho Public Utilities Commission - Case IPC-E-05
  50. Impacts of climate change and weather modification on hydrologic characteristics....
  51. Jet Engines: Fundamentals of Theory, Design and Operation
  52. Laser-induced condensation shows promise for cloud seeding
  53. A Model Based Feasibility Study of Glaciogenic Seeding...
  54. Mitigation of Hail Damages by Clouds Seeding
  55. NASA Facts about Aerosols
  56. NASA/Langley Cloud and Radiation Research
  57. NASA/Langley Minis Group's High Water Content Research
  58. National Climate Protection Act of 1978
  59. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012
  60. The Need for Cloud Seeding
  61. North American Weather Consultants, Inc.
  62. Observationsof Silver Iodide Plumes over the Grand Mesa
  63. Optimizing Cloud Seeding for Water and Energy in california
  64. OSHA Chemical Contaminant Levels
  65. Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming: Mitigation...
  66. The Potential Use of Winter Cloud Seeding Programs
  67. Precipitation Enhancement
  68. Precipitation for Augmentation of Rain and Hail Suppression
  69. Quantifying Precipitation Suppression Due to Air Pollution
  70. Radiative forcing potential of different climate geoengineering options
  71. Research on global sun block needed now
  72. A Review of the Sierra Cooperative Pilot Project
  73. Report to the President and Congress, 1974
  74. Salt Nuclei, Wind and Daily Rainfall in Hawaii
  75. The Santa Barbara Cloud Seeding Project in Coastal Southern California
  76. Satellite-Based Insights into Precipitation Formation Processes...
  77. Sea change in salinity heralds shift in rainfall
  78. Separation between Cloud-Seeding and Air-Pollution Effects
  79. Silver Iodide Plume Characteristics Over the Bridger Mountain Range
  80. Silver Iodide Toxicity according to the Weather Modification Association
  81. Southern Plains Experiment in Cloud Seeding
  82. Statement of Dr. Waleed Abdalati, NASA
  83. Sulfate Aerosol and Global Warming
  84. Summary of Trace Chemicals and Physical Measurements of Snowfall...
  85. Suppression of Rain and Snow by Urban and Industrial Air Pollution
  86. Ten-Year Non-Randomized Cloud Seeding Program on the King's River
  87. Texas Drought, 2011
  88. Texas House of Representatives Request for Attorney General's Opinion
  89. Unilateral Geoengineering
  90. US Bureau of Reclamation Weather Damage Modification Program
  91. US Geological Survey: Water Data for the US
  92. US Library of Congress
  93. US National Climate Program, 2012
  94. US Senate Bill S.2192 (2007)
  95. US Senate, Global Climate Change Hearings, 1997
  96. US Senate, Projected and Past Effects of Climate Change
  97. Water Supply Enhancement, County of Santa Barbara
  98. Weather Modification- A Scenario for the Future
  99. Weather Enhancement Technologies International
  100. Weather Mitigation Research and Development Policy Authorization Act of 2007
  101. Weather Modification: Finding Common Ground
  102. Weather Modification for Precipitation Augmentation and its Potential Usefulness...
  103. Weather Modification, Inc.
  104. Weather Modification papers Published prior to 1969
  105. Weather Modification Permit Program, Colorado
  106. A Weather Situation with Strong Convection in the Middle Stratosphere
  107. What about weather modification?
  108. What You Should Know about Aircraft Engine Lubrication
  109. World lacks enough food, fuel as population soars
  110. Wolchover, Natalie, What Are Climate Change Skeptics Still Skeptical About?
  111. Venezuela turns to cloud-seeding to battle drought
  112. Zurgena anti-cloud seeding organisation keeps growing

Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of our sense-experience correspond to a logically uniform system of thought... hypothetical, never completely final, always subject to question and doubt.


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