What if you could control the weather? It’s a question that has exercised mankind for millennia. Now evidence has emerged that the US Intelligence community is funding climate research in what a leading climate scientist fears is a step towards controlling and weaponizing weather.
Professor Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has revealed in a recent conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San José how three years ago he received a telephone call from two men who claimed to be working for the CIA. Apparently they said: “We are working for the CIA and would like to know if some other country was controlling our climate would we be able to detect it?”
Robock said he was scared by the call, revealing that he thought that the CIA operatives were also wondering, “If we wanted to control someone else’s climate could they detect it?”
Further evidence of the CIA’s interest in climate emerged last week when the National Academy of Sciences published a report on tacking climate change. One volume of the report concentrated on ways to manipulate clouds or the earth’s surface to reflect more sunlight out to space and the other targeted means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The CIA was one of the major funders of the report which led Professor Robock to wonder what exactly is the Agency’s interest?
The CIA did not respond when asked to comment.
The Agency set up the Center for Climate Change and National Security in 2009. It was closed down in 2012 but evidently the CIA’s interest in climate continues. It raises the question – was this office truly closed down or has it just gone underground? Has it become just one more deniable op?
When it did operate, the Center drew heavy criticism from Republicans who regarded it as a distraction from the clearer and more present dangers posed by terrorism. Which begs the question, what if weather manipulation could be used as an act of terrorism?
That is the premise of my novel Ark Storm, in which I describe how a real life scientific innovation that can make it rain is used to stage a terrorist attack on the West Coast of the United States of America.
I stumbled on the science behind Ark Storm when I was living in Dubai. It was the summer of 2010. I read that dramatically heavy rains were falling in the deserts of neighbouring El Ain in the United Arab Emirates causing unprecedented floods. In that region, the historical average number of rainfall events for June through September is two. The National Weather Service forecast zero rain events over that period. But it did rain. On fifty two separate occasions. And it hailed and galed and thundered. It made the international news.
When I investigated further, I heard rumours of masts in the desert, of scientists and computer models. It sounded like something out of a James Bond movie. And then I read an article which explained what had been going on.
It was the work of scientists. Technicians were mounting ionizers on masts, producing electrons which attached to dust particles in the atmosphere. These dust particles rose by convection till they reached the right height for cloud formation where they attracted water molecules floating in the air which then started to condense around them. Billions of droplets of rain formed and fell…
So far, so Bondian. Then I heard about the latest twist where the ionizers are sent up on drones… Which made me think of terrorists…
This technology is a game changer, capable of bringing rain to areas of drought, to making once marginal farmland richly productive. All that’s needed is a minimum humidity level of thirty per cent, the ionizers correctly programmed to emit just the right quantity of short-living ions over the appropriate time period and circulation pattern to charge the natural aerosol particles and masts or drones to get the ionizers into the correct positions.
It is worth tens of billions of dollars; it is something that people would kill for, nations would go to war for. Is it any wonder that intelligence agencies such as the CIA are interested…
The technology works by tapping into what is known as the pipelines of water in the sky. The largest of these pipelines are known as atmospheric rivers. We have only been aware of the existence of these rivers for around five or six years due to advances in satellite imaging technology. Most people looking up on a clear day would never think that just a few miles above their heads a huge ribbon of moist air hundreds of kilometers wide and over two thousand long could be coursing through the atmosphere at speeds in excess of 12.5 meters a second.
Small atmospheric river storms hit around the world every year. But every so often, a monster emerges. In California they are preparing for the next one. A team of 117 scientists, engineers, public policy and insurance experts under the umbrella of the Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project worked for two years to create the hypothetical scenario of what such a storm could be and what damage it would wreak across the state of California. In an ARk Storm 1000 scenario, this river, described by the head of the ARk Storm Unit as “like Forty Mississippis,” races from the tropics toward the west coast of the US, then hits, and keeps on hitting. The Storm Door opens and fails to close. This is a storm so intense it has been described as “like Hurricane Katrina pushed through a keyhole.”
The scenario goes like this; winds of up to 125 km’s per hour, rain falling in feet rather than inches, nine million homes flooded, parts of LA under twenty foot of water, one and a half million residents evacuated, four weeks of solid rain, an area three hundred miles long and twenty miles wide under water, innumerable mud slides, multiple casualties, a trillion dollars worth of damage. A meteorological nightmare and a catastrophe for the state of California.
Last time something like this hit was 1861 to 1862. Witnesses describe a flying wall of water that swept people and livestock to their deaths. California’s Central Valley was turned into an inland sea for months. Such a storm would be more devastating than the Shake Out Earthquake and its probability of hitting is about the same. Both are expected imminently in geological terms. ARk Storm 1000 is arguably overdue.
I thought what if the ionization technology were to fall into the wrong hands… What if somebody decided to use it to ramp up an ordinary atmospheric river storm into the ARk Storm 1000? That is fiction. The technology is fact.
It is the realisation of an ancient fantasy. We have mapped the surface territories of the earth, we are valiantly progressing in our attempts to plumb the deep, we are making inroads into space. We have seeded clouds with some local, limited success. But despite efforts across the millennia, mankind has been unable to control the weather. Until now. As a result of the ionization technology, we can in a limited but very powerful and dramatic way, manipulate the weather.
Now man with all his hubris in the best traditions of a Greek tragedy can attempt to play God. And who will pay the price? The rich and powerful in some morality tale, or the poor and the weak in the all-too-familiar play of Realpolitik…?