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Weather and Hurricane Modification: Does It Exist?

Weather modification by seeding weather systems and clouds with silver iodide.  It is a science (kind of!) but does it work?

Weather modification by seeding weather systems and clouds with silver iodide. It is a science (kind of!) but does it work?

Does Weather Modification Exist?

With the advent of the two super storms, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, with Hurricane Harvey producing record amounts of rainfall and historic floods and Hurricane Irma being the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, the usual conspiracy suspects are once again telling their audiences that the government is controlling the weather and creating severe storms in order to further their own ends.

The conspiracy nuts are taking small nuggets of information with a basis of truth to them and painting that information in such a way that it looks like proof that the government is lying to you, trying to kill you, controlling your mind, altering the weather, and attempting to crash the economy.

Of course, if you are starting out with a particular answer in mind, it is very easy to find small nuggets of information everywhere that gradually confirm your world view. However, with standard, out-of-the-box-starter conspiracies, it generally only confirms your world view if you take the information out of context and don’t further research the information to get the full story.

So, let’s start by asking our original question: does weather modification exist?

The answer to that is a resounding yes!

Alex Jones lips are moving.  Guess what he's doing?

Alex Jones lips are moving. Guess what he's doing?

The Weather is Coming, The Weather is Coming

For conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones at Infowars and many others, the answer to that question is also confirmation that the government is out to get you (even though the government is now headed by Alex's friend, Donald Trump). The government is supposedly coming for your guns, spraying tonnes of chemicals from planes to poison the planet and poison you, and the only way you can defend yourself (in Alex Jones' opinion) is to buy as many of his "natural health" products as you can and stock up on the emergency preparation supplies sold by his advertising affiliates.

Before we examine the evidence regarding the existence of weather modification, however, let’s ask another question that’s beloved of conspiracy theorists and to be fair, if it can be answered with any degree of accuracy, is a valid question to ask:

Who benefits?

The answer to that question is very often “follow the money” and you’ll find out. With that in mind let’s consider the estimated cost to the government of the two super-storms, Harvey and Irma.

According to fortune.com, Hurricane Harvey could end up costing as much as $180 billion. There are also the economic problems to take into account because many of Texas' industries have been paralysed by the event and indeed many oil-producing facilities have been damaged or put out of service by the storm. Why would federal government insiders, which include many in the oil lobby want their facilities damaged or put out of action entirely by a storm of their making costing them millions of dollars in revenue and profits?

In a report in guardian.com, estimates of the cost of Hurricane Irma stretch to as far as $300 billion. When you factor in the cost to the economy and the damage that such storms can do to the tourist trade, which can take many years to recover from such weather events, it makes no sense that a federal government, which under Donald Trump is attempting a renewal of the economy via "economic nationalism" would want to create storms with such catastrophic results and astronomical price tags.

A Cunning Plan

So how do the Alex Jones's of this world get around such an anomaly? The answer, of course, is to blame the deep state, which according to Jones has now taken over the White House since the departure of alt-right "heroes" such as Steve Bannon and Seb Gorka. This keeps all previous conspiracy theories on track and means that Infowars can keep on scaring their listeners to death with their quackery, whilst conveniently ignoring the Occam’s Razor approach and accepting the simplest explanation which is that models of climate change predict exactly the sort of weather events that the world has just witnessed with Irma and Harvey.


Practical Experimentation

As I said earlier, weather modification does exist as a science, the problem that it has grappled with, however, is that weather by its very nature is changeable, and results can often be explained away as being the subjective experience of the observer. To understand this first hand, get yourself out in the great outdoors on a reasonably sunny day with plenty of white fluffy clouds. Choose one cloud and affix your gaze directly to it (do not look in the direction of the sun!) Now, imagine this cloud gradually getting smaller until it disappears completely. Keep staring at the cloud and imagining it getting smaller until it disappears. After performing this experiment, ask yourself if it was you staring at the cloud that made it disappear, or would it have disappeared naturally anyhow?

If you wish, you can try some variations on this, such as imagining it will stop raining during a heavy downpour or making the sun appear on a thoroughly cloudy day with a grey sky. (If, in fact, you do find you have a talent for altering the weather with the power of your mind, please get in touch with me through one of my various platforms and I will be pleased to furnish you with further instruction.)

What's the answer if you think your government is lying to you?  It's Donald Trump, of course.

What's the answer if you think your government is lying to you? It's Donald Trump, of course.

Takes One to Know One

Many problems encountered by the various weather modification projects funded by the U.S. military over a number of decades in the 20th century. Would the results perceived to have been achieved have just happened anyway, or were they a result of the experiments that were being performed? This being the case, we can see weather modification as a field wide open to quackery and one of a number of possible starting points to lever individuals into the mindset of “our government is lying to us about the weather,” which will maybe move on to a general “our government is lying to us,” and then possibly moving on to “look, Donald Trump is suggesting our government is lying to us too,” to “look, our government is lying to us about everything, Donald Trump is running for president, he is saying our government is lying to us, hence we must vote for Donald Trump,” whilst conveniently not taking on board the fact that with scams such as Trump University, Trump is an accomplished and as brazen a liar as they come.

Yes, America, you have exchanged one set of untrustworthy politicians for an outright-wing dangerous charlatan, in order to solve the problem of dishonest politicians in politics. Only in America (well, perhaps in the UK with Brexit too!)

Project Cirrus

The first serious attempt at weather modification in the post-World War II era was called Project Cirrus and was born out of the experiments conducted by a Dr Langmiur under the auspices of General Electric. The experiments were commenced even though General Electric could see no commercial benefit for the experiments being conducted by the project team, who were originally exploring the problem of icing on aircraft at altitude. After what the team deemed to be successful initial results of ‘cloud-seeding’ which consisted of seeding clouds from planes with silver iodide, they looked to secure further funding for their projects. However, the team encountered a far greater fear at boardroom level than the fear of extreme weather and that was the fear of litigation, should the experiments be successful and set off some catastrophic weather event.

This being the case, it was decided that the experiments would be put on hold whilst attempts were made to get the government on board the scheme in the shape of the U.S. military, for whom such technology may have been of interest on the battlefield and who could also be of help with expense (i.e. taxpayer dollars) and equipment, such as military planes and aircraft hangars.

A contract was presently received from the Signal Corps covering “research study of cloud particles and cloud modifications,” which was slated to commence on February 28th 1947. The contract actually enjoyed joint sponsorship from the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Air Force, which facilitated aircraft and associated personnel.

A caveat was included in the contract, stating that…

“the entire flight program shall be conducted by the government, using exclusively government personnel and equipment, and shall be under the exclusive direction and control of such government personnel,"

and also….

"that it is essential that all of the G.E, employees who are working on this project refrain from asserting any control or direction over the flight pro- gram. The G. E. Research Laboratory responsibility is confined strictly to laboratory work and reports,”

…effectively shifting the blame for any catastrophic event that ensued away from General Electric and on to the U.S. military.

Fluffy White Cumulus Cloud

Fluffy White Cumulus Cloud

Cloud Seeding With Silver Iodide

Shortly before the project was put on hold awaiting government cover and funding, the team had produced some results which showed that snow could be produced by seeding isolated cumulous clouds with silver iodide although these results were short-lived over the period of some five minutes or so and subsequently deemed to be of little interest.

In their first major experiment on October 13th, 1947 the project flew planes along the rain bands of a hurricane 350 miles off the Florida coast seeding it with 80 pounds (or 180 pounds, depending on which sources you read) of dry ice into the weather system. The hurricane then promptly changed direction and headed inland making landfall at Savannah, Georgia.

Dr. Langmuir boasted that the change in direction was due to the seeding experiments of his Project Cirrus team and the immediate result was law suits claiming for damages caused by the hurricane. The government denied all knowledge of the program and continued to do so for many more years but the lawsuits were ended when it transpired that the hurricane had actually started to change direction before the seeding had begun and historical data was produced to show a hurricane taking an almost identical path in 1906.

After the Georgian Hurricane debacle, Project Cirrus was relocated to New Mexico where Dr. Langmuir continued to boast publicly about the success of his experiments. This coincided with an uncharacteristically wet spell of weather in New Mexico, which Langmuir concluded was due to his work but the data shows was more than not likely to have been caused by warm weather fronts that carried warm moisture from the Gulf of Mexico causing heavy rain over six states.

After congressional hearings and being dogged by litigation, Project Cirrus was canceled as it was deemed that meteorological prediction know-how had not yet reached the point where it could be determined that the results obtained by the project could be due to natural weather phenomena, or the results of the projects team efforts.

Conclusion: The results of Project Cirrus were, at best, inconclusive. The U.S. government did, however, lie about the existence (or not) of the project but this appears to have been more to protect against the threat of litigation rather than to willfully keep the project under wraps. The inability of Dr. Langmuir to keep his mouth shut publically about the project as per the relevant part of the contract with the U.S. Signal Corps led to the projects early demise.

A satellite image of Hurricane Irma

A satellite image of Hurricane Irma

Project Stormfury

Part of the weather modification narrative that you don’t hear accomplished liars such as Infowars’ Alex Jones telling his audience during hurricane season, is that the most in-depth and long-lasting project to alter weather systems was not a project to create a hurricane, but actually a decade-long U.S. government attempt to lessen the impact of tropical cyclones. Project Stormfury officially ran from 1962 to 1983 but its last attempt to modify a hurricane was in 1971. Once again the plan was to use silver iodide to seed the hurricane. Cowed by the experience of Project Cirrus and the litigation that ensued from Dr. Langmuir’s boasting a high bar was set for the type of weather systems that the project could attempt to alter.

The hurricane had to have a less than 10 percent chance of approaching inhabited land within 24 hours, it had to be within the range of the seeding aircraft, and it had to be a fairly intense storm with a well-formed eye. This made the locating of suitable weather systems extremely rare, in fact in 1962 there were no suitable weather systems detected at all. In August 1963 the project experimented with seeding cumulous clouds along the lines of Dr. Langmuir’s Project Cirrus experiments and “changes consistent with the working hypothesis were observed.”

On August 23rd, 1963, the project had its first attempt at seeding a hurricane, Hurricane Beulah, but the team dropped the silver iodide in the wrong place and no results were observed. The following day they tried again and on this occasion, the team dropped the silver iodide in the correct place. The eyewall of the hurricane was observed to collapse and be replaced by an eyewall with a larger radius and a drop of sustained wind speed by some 20mph was also detected. Even though eyewall collapse and replacement is a natural feature of hurricanes, the team deemed their results to be encouraging, but inconclusive.

Cloud Seeding:  How it might, or might not work.

Cloud Seeding: How it might, or might not work.

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

In late August 1965, Project Stormfury identified Hurricane Betsy as an ideal candidate for seeding, the media was duly notified and newspapers reported that Betsy was to be seeded. On September 1st the storm turned sharply for land, meaning that it fell outside the remit for seeding and could not be used for the experiment. However, the public was not notified that the seeding was cancelled. The storm tore into Florida and Louisiana. It was the first storm to cause over $1 billion worth of damages and was also responsible for 76 deaths. It took a number of months for Project Stormfury officials to convince the media and Congress that the devastation wrought by the storm was not due to their experiments as they hadn’t carried out any seeding at all on the weather system.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the project would once more have the opportunity to seed a hurricane to check if the hypothesis they formulated was reasonable. In August of that year, Hurricane Debbie was identified as the ideal candidate for seeding and the experiments commenced. Between August 18th- 20th the project flew a total of thirteen planes into the weather system for the purpose of observation and seeding. On the first day of seeding, wind speeds were observed to drop by 31%, followed by an 18% drop on the second day. These results apparently fitted with the projects working hypothesis and the excitement generated led to plans for a greatly expanded project but this was never realised.

In 1971, the project attempted seeding Hurricane Ginger but this had no effect on the weather system. This was the last attempt at seeding a weather system by the project. The project then evolved into more of an attempt to understand the behaviour of weather systems in the Atlantic, rather than a direct attempt at weather modification.

Plans to resurrect the cloud-seeding project were put in place in 1976 by a suggested relocation to seed typhoons out of Guam but the Chinese were none too happy about the possible repercussions caused by modified storms over its territory and so that idea was put to rest, as was another to operate out of the East Pacific region. Project Stormfury limped on until 1983 but as Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew more missions into the eyewall of hurricanes, data began to stack up to show that the ‘results’ obtained in their seeding experiments actually occurred as natural phenomena without the snake-oil of silver iodide being dropped into them which basically nullified the project’s working hypothesis.

Conclusion – Failure. What the project’s team took to be the effects of seeding the weather systems with silver iodide could also be observed as natural phenomena in weather systems where seeding hadn’t taken place. When the technology improved and data accumulated it shot the results of the project to pieces.

Project Popeye: Not a plan to drop spinach on Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Project Popeye: Not a plan to drop spinach on Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Project Popeye

In the late sixties, Project Popeye was conceived by the U.S. military involved in the Vietnam War, as a plan to extend the Vietnamese rainy season in order to “reduce trafficability along infiltration routes.” Although deemed a success by those responsible and participating in the project, once again, it suffers from the results possibly being a lot more subjective than objective. Defense Intelligence Agency estimates suggested that the project produced an extra 30% rainfall but they were just that, estimates and not conclusive proof. It could just be that the rainfall was heavier than normal, or it could be that the estimates were incorrect or even falsified.

Once again, details of this project leaked into the public domain and once again, the government denied it for a number of years. The leaking and denial may have been more effective as a psyop to sap the will of the enemy into believing that the U.S. could successfully seed clouds. It also presumably kept a large number of scientists and military personnel away from the front line.

Conclusion: Inconclusive. There is no scientific evidence that Project Popeye was successful.

So, there we have it. Numerous attempts have been made by the U.S. Government to modify the weather but none have turned out successfully or produced concrete results that can’t now be easily explained away as natural phenomena, as science and data collection advances.

Is that what Infowars’ Alex Jones and his alt-right conspiracy goons have been telling their audience?

No? Thought not.

But what’s that you say? Are the government also poisoning us by spraying poisonous chemicals over large areas via passenger and military jet planes? Well, we’ve got that one covered for you here too…..

Be Seeing You!

© 2017 Mr Bueno


Mr Bueno (author) from Cambridge, UK on October 18, 2017:

Hello Mary. You are right in stating your equation of 2+2=5 for this story. The interesting thing here (for me anyway) is that Alex Jones and latterly his followers had the 5 to start with and then they went looking for the 2+2.

Probably not the way that the pioneers of cloud seeding went about things as they conducted their experiments, as they were encountering phenomena never before observed and put the results of the anomalies they witnessed down to their own efforts. Hence the 5 appeared as a guileless byproduct, perhaps of their own egos, until the promise of research funding and the mystique of military psyops became too tempting not to carry the wheeze further.

The thinker thinks what the prover proves.

This being the case, it is highly disturbing to think what the outcome of Alex Jones now having millions of followers will ultimately turn out to be. Let's hope it is positive and it spurs a movement to introduce the discipline of critical thinking as a core part of the education system.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on October 17, 2017:

I think this is a classic case of 2 + 2 =5. I didn't know who that Alex Jones was but I won't be wasting any of my time listening to him.

The knowledge of seeding clouds does go on which is out there in the public domain. I think people who listen to c&^p like that and believe it, need to get a life and do something productive.

He is just another extremist who unfortunately has found a group of people who want to join other finger pointing lame brains.

Interesting article.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 16, 2017:

Oh, THAT guy. He's off the rails nuts.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 16, 2017:

I'm off now to look up more on who this Alex Jones character is and what his deal is. I'm thinking he's a weirdo.

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