Weather Modifications & its Impacts

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    In Context

    • China conducted over half a million weather-modification operations between 2002 and 2012.

    More about the news

    • China has frequently made use of cloud seeding technologies to relieve droughts or clear the air ahead of major international events.
    • It has also been building a weather modification system in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve. 
      • It is built with the aim of pumping large quantities of silver iodide into the clouds in a bid to increase rainfall.
    • The Chinese government said it would continue its artificial weather operations in key areas like the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, as well as the major ecological protection zones of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers.
      • China also aims to build up its scientific capabilities and establish an experimental base and laboratory to improve its ability to induce or prevent rain, eliminate fog and improve air quality.

    Weather Modification

    • About:
      • Weather modification (also known as weather control) is the act of intentionally manipulating or altering the weather. 
      • The most common form of weather modification is cloud seeding.
    • Cloud seeding:
      • Cloud seeding includes the addition of chemicals like small particles of silver iodide to clouds.
      • When these substances are introduced into the clouds, the water droplets cluster together, increasing the likelihood of rainfall – meaning clouds clear from the sky.
      • Weather manipulation of this type is also known as “blue-skying”.
      • Cloud seeding offers opportunities to limit famine, reduce drought, and create better freshwater resources.
        • Some efforts could even transform hail into rain or snow.

    Advantages

    • Precipitation:
      • When the conditions are right for rain but the clouds are not strong enough to produce it, cloud seeding can make a positive impact on the regions of our world that see consistent drought problems. 
    • Making the land suitable for living:
      • We have regions of our planet that are difficult for human survival because there is a lack of moisture present.
      • The work of cloud seeding creates the potential for more precipitation.
      • This technique helps agricultural workers produce more crops of better quality. It allows groundwater ecosystems to recharge.
    • Mitigating global warming:
      • According to a study in China, artificial rain reduced the level of PM2.5 air pollutants by more than two-thirds.
    • Regulating weather patterns: 
      • Cloud seeding helps to regulate weather patterns in specific locations.
      • Airports frequently use cloud seeding as a way to create consistent conditions around their runways. 
    • Economic benefits:
      • If farmers can improve their crop quality and yield, then they will make more money to support their families. 
      • Tourism improves when there are more recreational waters and snowy slopes to use. 
      • Additional resources create new jobs that boost wages and spending in communities so that new support businesses (like restaurants, grocery stores, or entertainment destinations) can begin.

    Disadvantages

    • Specific weather conditions:
      • Cloud seeding will not work if there are clear skies in the forecast. 
      • The correct atmospheric conditions must be present for this technique to work. Clouds that are capable of rain are the only ones that respond well to this effort. 
      • When airplanes fly through them, then the seeds they release provide more nuclei that help to form condensation points that can lead to rain or snow. 
      • If you were to fly on a clear day to release silver or potassium iodide, then the released chemicals would simply fall to the ground without doing anything.
    • Polluting environment:
      • The goal of cloud seeding is to create seeds that can attract condensation, but this process doesn’t always work. 
      • If we’re releasing solid carbon dioxide or liquid propane into the sky, then these elements could become part of the local environment.
      • The impact of long-term exposure to cloud seeding is yet unknown.
        • Silver iodide is not currently listed as being harmful to human health in the quantities used for cloud seeding. 
    • An expensive venture:
      • When cloud seeding takes place under ideal conditions, then it can increase the levels of precipitation locally by up to 15%. 
      • That means the expense of producing additional precipitation would be higher than the economic benefits it provides. 
    • Possibility of altering weather patterns in other areas:
      • When clouds receive seeds that encourage more rainfall in a specific area, then that activity could rob other regions of the moisture that they’d typically receive. 
      • If we solve a drought problem in one region, then we might create another one somewhere else.
    • Flooding:
      • Flooding is a significant issue that can happen from this work. 
      • Dry ground does not readily absorb moisture, which is why flash floods can be a significant problem in deserts.
    • Using it as a weapon:
      • Using technology, weather can be manipulated for use as a weapon to wage a covert war. It can damage the enemy’s ecosystem, destroy agriculture, and disable communications networks. 

    Way Ahead

    • The question is when disasters happen due to weather modifications, who can be blamed for it, Is it the government or nature? 
    • There is a need for an international organisation to govern weather-modification programmes. 
      • Weather modification occurs in the air, where there are no boundaries. This impacts international politics and we need more imagination to deal with geopolitics.

    Source: DTE