6 Insane Ways People Have Tried to Control the Weather

  • October 24, 2011
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If there is one thing that science really hates, it's not being number one. For years, scientists have taken on death, disease, religion, and dingy teeth in a quest to defeat anything that challenges them. Thus, it was only a matter of time before science reared its ugly, chrome-plated head toward the heavens and took on Mother Nature. And, in our professional opinion, the results can only be known as "batshit insane".

6.

Selective Cloud Seeding

As just about anybody can tell you, even the most dancingest of Native American can't inspire clouds to stop dicking around on one side of the valley and come and rain on your side when you want them to. As a result of this, people for centuries have had to subscribe to the decidedly non-badass practice of "waiting patiently for the clouds to come your way." However, a while back, science decided, "Fuck patience." This has since become science's official motto. As a result of this step away from boring naturalness, Vincent Schaefer and Irving Langmuir developed cloud seeding in 1943, effectively damning the clear blue skies to a sanity free existence.

What Is It?

Essentially, cloud seeding works by a process known as "particulate condensation." This means you are taking something (usually silver iodide and solid carbon dioxide), putting that stuff in a canister, and somehow getting that stuff into the atmosphere, usually by way of airplanes, a ground generator, or the very badass rocket launcher.

selective cloud

Dear Nature, if you piss us off one more time, we will shoot more rockets at you. Sincerely, Science.

Once you have gotten the potentially toxic chemicals up into the atmosphere, water then comes and clings to the particulate matter in the cloud of science you have just released. After a while, enough water comes, and like fucking magic, you have a cloud. An honest to God rain spouting, shade making, "kinda like a rocket ship" looking cloud. Dance on that shit, Cherokee nation.

What's So Insane About That?

Cloud seeding is in wide use all around the world, but by far our two favorite examples come from China and Russia, two countries with impressive resumes of crazy. As some of you may have heard during 2008's summer Olympics (for us it was in between setting up ping-pong betting pools and fits of masturbation while watching beach volleyball), China was more than a little concerned with their global image, since they'd be on one hell of a stage, and they have an inferiority complex that would make even the most rebellious of teenager put down their Keystone Ice for a moment and shake their head at the sad of state of global politics.

One result of this nationwide personality disorder you may not have been aware of was the extent to which China went just to keep it from raining on Beijing during the festivities. In order to accomplish this feat, the Chinese government employed no less than 32,000 people to maintain anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers loaded with cloud seeding materials. For rain. Fucking. Rain.

selective cloud1

Chinese Secretary of Climate Science

The case in Russia was a bit different, but not at all more sane. Whereas China was willing to spend retarded amounts of capital on their program, Russia was actually more concerned with saving money. Just this past winter, Moscow's mayor announced a plan to take the cloud seeding (that they seem to suspiciously complacent with) that they use for festivals and parades at times during the year, and - conveniently ignoring the fact that, you know, winter is a fucking season - tried to keep snow from falling on Moscow. The plan was proposed to save on city maintenance and clean up costs, and also to deal with the citizens' main problem, that being they live in Russia. Shwa-ZING! Unsurprisingly, the plan failed, and Russians everywhere were forced to continue growing out their beards for warmth.

selective cloud2

Russia: the World's Beard

5.

Hurricane Dissolution

As opposed to the above mentioned method, wherein the effort was geared towards getting clouds up off their lazy asses and getting their rain on you, there comes a time when clouds get a little too enthusiastic, and start storming and hailing and thundering all up in your shit. Obviously, this cannot be stood for. If there is something that needs its smug little ass handed to it, that thing is nature. As a result, science once again took on the clouds in an effort at storm prevention.

What Is It?

Essentially, the most commonly accepted and attempted method of thunderstorm and cyclone prevention is a highly modified version of the cloud seeding methods. A theoretical plane goes and flies into a theoretical cloud and dumps a large amount of theoretical silver iodide into the middle of the storm. This in turn centralizes the cloud's moisture away from the storm's eyewall, by making a new theoretically awesome eyewall, which results in the theoretical dissolution of the storm itself. This is caused by something called latent heat, and in the end what you get instead of a raging storm, you get soft fluffy clouds. Just the way God intended.

What's So Insane About That?

By far our favorite example of this practice being attempted was by the United States government from 1962 to 1983, in what can be officially known as the most badass thing anybody has ever done in the history of ever, Project Stormfury.

hurricane dissolution

In name alone, this thing was a fucking fantastic idea.

Initiated by the U.S. government in 1962 and finally put out of its misery in 1983, Project Stormfury took every drunken fratboy's dream of flying an airplane into the heart of a cyclone and it made it a glorious reality. This was first done back in 1961, when eight canisters of silver iodide were dropped into the eyewall of Hurricane Esther. Sensors on the plane registered a subsequent drop of around 10% in wind speeds. The next day, a plane went in and dropped an equal number of canisters outside of the eyewall of the hurricane, showing not only absolutely no reduction in windspeed (considering the original hypothesis stated that the cansiters must be dropped into the eyewall itself), but, apparently, that the experiment was a success. So, essentially, the government spent an extra day and the cost of fuel and canisters to not necessarily prove that they were correct, but rather prove that they weren't wrong. Not only is this the kind of ass-backward logic that we love and expect from our leaders, when it happened Dwight D. Eiesenhower got an erection and he didn't know why.

This "success" prompted the creation of the project officially, and missions were flown until 1971, a time in which men stopped being real men, and relied on remote placement and ordnance to seed the storms. Some of the missions met success and others with failure, thus leading the project to be labelled "inconclusive." The upside to all this "thinking that flying an airplane into a hurricane is in any way a good idea" sort of thinking was that it proved invaluable for learning more about the inner workings of cyclones and hurricanes, as well as showed just how damn good the U.S. is at naming it's scientific endeavours. We at Weirdworm simply write articles to pass time while we wait for Project Superboner to become a reality.

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4.

Rockets Used to Attract and Study Lightning

Quick! Off the top of your head, name three things that every super villain has. Don't worry. We'll wait.

If you said rockets, a secret lair, and lightning coming out of said lair, congratulations. You may just be a Weirdworm writer. Check your Swiss bank account.

But in the off chance that you have a real job and came up with those three things, you may also be a climate scientist. These are the folks who came up with the "too nut burstingly awesome sounding to be real but totally is" plan of firing rockets into thunderstorms. They say it was to study "nature's really fantastic fireworks display" of X-Rays that lightning is apparently chockfull of, but we know exactly why they did it: to fire a rocket. Into a thunderstorm. Fuck. Yes. We’re still pretty sure this was part of a top secret program to engineer more awesome album covers.

rockets

Dear Nature, seriously; we weren't kidding about that rocket thing. Sincerely, Science

What Is It?

The science behind this is pretty simple and straightforward, and is just making a situation that caters towards the nature of lightning. Lightning needs two things to 'strike' the Earth: a cloud filled with super active electrons, all whirring around in their cloud n' shit, and a spot on the ground or in the air to connect with. Actually, fuck it. Read about it here.

Essentially, the whole purpose for the rocket being fired was to give the scientists a controllable point from which to give the lightning a surface to connect. Once they had that controllable point, they were able to measure the shit out of that lightning. The best part is that their equipment was measuring sharp increases in x-rays and gamma rays, something scientists had been attempting to do since the 1920's.

What's So Insane About That?

Beyond the implications of firing a rocket into a thunderstorm (we don't care how many times we type that phrase: our fingers are yet to believe it), the best part is that the very people who did it have no sound explanation for where all that radiation is even coming from, and have no idea what they'll do with the information now that they have it. Some theories float around about electrons bumping against molecules of air and creating relativistic effects, but it is all mostly circumspect, given that of all the ridiculously difficult things that a person could ever choose to try and study, lightning is at the top of the list. Or at least in the top three, after black holes and why Internet comedy writers are so inexplicably sexy.

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Weirdworm's Editorial Staff

3.

Mirrors Used to Mitigate Warming

No matter how it acts sometimes, you have to admit that weather can be pretty cool. We all have wonderful memories of dancing out in rain showers, or sledding on freshly fallen snow with our friends; cool summer nights spent relaxing on the porch, or crisp autumn mornings where you awake to a symphony of color. Yet for every time that we start to think us and nature are chill buddies again, along comes friggin' global warming to ruin your shit and remind that it's your own damn fault.

mirrors

Pictured: Climate Change

Obviously, we turned to our species' best and brightest to save us from ourselves and have come up with some fantastic suggestions, including building a giant series of 'fake' trees and dumping Biblical amounts of iron into the oceans. But the one that really caught our attention was the proposed plan to shoot almost 100,000 square feet of mirrors into space and effectively create a giant 'sunshade'.

What Is It?

The heart of the plan is obvious (hell, you could've learned about it from that one Simpsons episode): take the one thing causing the problem and remove it from the equation, with the only challenge being that, you know, that one thing is the fucking sun. But according to the project's leader, University of Arizona astronomer Dr. Roger Angel, "What we have developed is certainly effective and a method guaranteed to work ". And not only is this just a professor, spouting ideas and being all good n' crazy, but this method has the U.S. government very interested as Dr. Angel is one of the world's leading solar scientists, and money has already been spent on prototype testing. So there you go. Global warming= fucking solved. Now science can move on to bigger and better things, namely why boobs are so damn awesome.

What's So Insane About That?

Slow down there, hombre. Don't go trade in your guiltily purchased hybrid car to buy your "Carbon Emissions Increaser" quite yet. The one thing that makes this project so delightfully batshit - and is the main thing getting in the way of creating a mirror that God could use to shave - isn't necessarily the math or physics behind it, but rather just logistics, the first and foremost being that the overall plan is projected to cost over $350 trillion. To put that in terms that are easier to understand, $350,000,000,000,000 is an amount almost equivalent to a zillion bajillion dollars, or the amount of money the average college graduate will make in 400 million lifetimes. Beyond this, the plan involves using – logically – a cannon to put the mirrors in space. A cannon with a barrel over half a mile wide. To put that in perspective, the largest gun ever built to date had a barrel of about 31 inches. And when a prototype for the gun was commissioned, the guy building had not only never built a cannon before in his life, but it was ridiculously stronger than they thought it would be and became retardedly dangerous. But, other than that, you can rest easy in knowing that buying all those green t-shirts has finally paid off.

2.

Improving Clouds With Saltwater

This one is, again, all about undoing the clusterfuck of global warming that we brought upon ourselves. And believe us, people are on the verge of trying just about anything to try and fix it. But the majority of these planet-wide solutions (known as "geoengineering") revolve trying to reflect more of the sun's rays back out into space. And this case, scientists eschewed the idea of shooting mirrors into the cosmos and went to, once again, creating clouds where there were none before. Or at least beefing up existing clouds, ones that already seem to be kinda pissed off at us.

improving

Hey, we're really sorry about that whole rocket deal...

But instead of launching canisters of silver iodide into the air, a method has been proposed that is substantially more 'green' [read: bullshit], and involves creating specialized ships that take seawater out from underneath themselves and spray up into the air, effectively giving a gigantic Wet Willie. To the world.

What Is It?

Again, what's happening here is that nonsense we mentioned before, particulate condensation. The ships shoot up a bunch of salty water, which mixes with existing stratocumulous clouds (those are the big, dark fluffy kind, and are the best type of cloud at reflecting sunlight. The water then peaces the fuck out and participates in the water cycle's natural evaporation process. This leaves behind a bunch of salt, just sitting there. This then creates the necessary particulate matter that latent moisture clings to, subsequently beefing up your existing cloud. This in turn increases the cloud's "albedo", or reflectivity, by about 10 percent. Multiply that by a shitton of clouds, and you've got yourself quite the nifty little sunshield there, partner. This project has been proposed by Professors Stephen Salter and John Latham, of the University of Edinburgh and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, respectively.

What's So Insane About That?

The thing about trying to engineer the entire Earth is that our planet is really friggin' huge (to us, anyway), and to have any measurable effect on it our efforts have to be really friggin' huge. Like, huge huge. Like, huge-enough-to-be-possibly-insane huge. Prof. Salter has said they will need around 1,500 ships, that each weigh around 300 tons, spread out around the Pacific Ocean. At a cost of £1 million to £2 million each, when we asked Weirdworm's accountant to total that sum and convert it to dollars, he just wet himself slightly and wrote "A FUCKLOAD" with his own blood on a whiteboard.

improving1

Not pictured: frugality.

While cheaper than an atmospheric mirror cannon, this one is also being kicked in the knees by logistics, but in our humble, list-based opinion, we're willing to pay for anything, as long as it gets Al Gore to stop babbling about God-knows-what.

1.

Aiming Sunlight

In what amounts to an apparently massive oversight (or the implication that Italy's mountains are sentient, and-more importantly-malevolent), there is a town in the Italian Alps called Viganella. While this seems normal enough, the town has a terrible, terrible flaw: due to their position in the mountains, the citizens of Viganella have had to, for the town's entire 800-year history, muddle through 83 sunless days a year. Coupled with the fact that these days of shadow happen during the winter, you've got yourself quite the miserably three months right there. Sorta helps to explain the town's dwindling population of about 200.

But, in the early 2000's, Pierfranco Midali ran for Mayor of Viganella, probably after saying, "Well fuck this shit. I want some sun." His campaign was entirely based upon somehow getting sunlight to shine upon the town. While most of the villagers were skeptical, they decided he was just their kind of crazy, and voted him in.

aiming sunlight

And in 2006, boy did he deliver. By way of a giant mirror.

What Is It?

This:

aiming sunlight1

Yeah. Let's build a town. Right fucking there.

The mirror doesn't bathe the village in golden rays of warmth, but it does give the town's piazza a couple-football-fields sized rectangle of all-natural, honest to God sunlight, something that Viganella has gone without since 1217: the Winter sun. Mayor Midali is a town hero, a documentary has been made about the whole deal, and, in the words of Mirror Man himself, "I can already see my little old ladies coming out of the church after mass and just standing there, enjoying a bit of sun."

What's So Insane About That?

If you haven't gotten the idea of it yet, trying to overhaul nature on such a large scale is not cheap. Not even close to cheap. And in the instance of Viganella's giant mirror, this was most definitely the case. The town itself has about 200 citizens, and of these, only like 15 actually have jobs or incomes. It's a really old town, and Midali is considered a spry whippersnapper, despite being in his late-40's. Thus, it was one hell of a tall order for them to somehow come up with the €100,000 pricetag. It exists now, so obviously they came up with the money, but in a manner of fantastic understatement, Midali has said, "It wasn't easy." That, and look at the friggin' thing:

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Written by Simon OBrien – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com

Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - Selective Cloud Seeding: http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080618/images/453970a-i8.0.jpg http://www.cabot.ac.uk/science/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/villain_dynamite.gif http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/europe/russia/map_of_russia.jpg
  • - Hurricane Dissolution: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/Project_Stormfury_crew.jpg http://www.papermarc.com.au/images/coat-cc_black-lg.jpg
  • - Rockets Used to Attract and Study Lightning: http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/07_01/rocketG0607_468x440.jpg
  • - Mirrors Used to Mitigate Warming: http://thenastyboys.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/nerd46422fm3.jpg
  • - Improving Clouds With Saltwater: http://www.sarahsbabyboutique.com/patterns/images/Angry%20Cloud-8.00-.jpg http://www.instablogsimages.com/images/2009/08/10/marine-cloud-whitening_YiR4J_69.jpg
  • - Aiming Sunlight: http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/42364000/jpg/_42364237_mayor_ap203bo.jpg http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/40991000/gif/_40991070_viganella_border_inf416.gif
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