Collier’s magazine – May 28, 1954
TO ORDER ?
Within 10 years, a top expert says, we may break up Tornadoes and produce rain or snow virtually at will
By CAPT. H. T. ORVILLE, USN (Ret.)
The following segments have been transcribed for clarity. Emphasis added. A link to the complete article as posted on the internet is at the end of this presentation.
A WEATHER station in southeast Texas spots a threatening cloud formation moving toward Waco on its radar screen; the shape of the cloud indicates a tornado may be building up. An urgent warning is sent to Weather Control Headquarters. Back comes an order for aircraft to dissipate the cloud. And less than an hour after the incipient tornado was first sighted, the aircraft radios back: Mission accomplished. The storm was broken up; there was no loss of life, no property damage.
This hypothetical destruction of a tornado in its infancy may sound fantastic today, but it could well become a reality within 40 years. In this age of the H-bomb, and supersonic flight, it is quite possible that science will find ways not only to dissipate incipient tornados and hurricanes, but to influence all our weather to a degree that staggers the imagination.
Indeed, if investigation of weather control receives the public support and funds for research which its importance merits, we may be able eventually to make weather almost to order.
By milking rain or snow from reluctant clouds at the proper time and place, we may be able to transform vast barren areas like the American dust bowl into fertile crop-productive land, drastically reducing famines the world over. Rain-on-order likewise could curb forest fires that destroy an average of 16,000,000 acres of timber in the United States every year.
We also might be able to prevent rain – for the farmer when he wants to dry his hay, for the fruit grower who fears fungus-promoting dampness, for the outdoor-sports promoter, even for sponsors of Sunday-school picnics.
Heavy thunderstorms may be moderated to lessen the hazards of floods, which cause $275,000,000 worth of property damage a year in the United States. Freezing rain, snow and sleet which stall surface traffic and damage communications lines may be drastically reduced. Hailstorms that wreck crops may be halted. Fogs that delay airline flights might be dispersed.
It is even conceivable that we could use weather as a weapon of warfare, creating storms or dissipating them as the tactical situation demands. We might deluge an enemy with rain to hamper a military movement or strike his food supplies by withholding needed rain from his crops.
Countless other benefits could accrue from an efficient method of weather modification. My belief that many of these benefits could be obtained within 40 years is based upon my 26 years as a weatherman and upon an intimate knowledge of the development of cloud-seeding or rain-making techniques since the first successful operations in November 1946 by Drs. Irving Langmuir and Vincent J Schaefer of the General Electric Company.
Lest I appear overenthusiastic, though, let me sound a note of reserve. It is possible today to increase rainfall under certain favorable conditions, and to dissipate some types of fog.
We also have reports that hail has been reduced. But before we can hope to achieve all the benefits I have outlined, hundreds of meteorological unknowns must be solved at a cost of possibly billions of dollars.
My distinguished colleague, Dr. Sverre Petterssen of the University of Chicago, has remarked that our knowledge of precipitation is very meager indeed. And before we can hope to control the weather, we must learn what causes weather. To gain this knowledge would probably require an effort as large as the Manhattan Project for the development of atomic energy.
Mastery of the weather is theoretically possible if our research is expanded on that scale. I think that cloud-seeding in eight years has carried the technique of weather modification about as far as aviation progressed during its first eight years. If weather research continues to match the pace of air progress, I believe there’s an excellent chance that the degree of weather control I have outlined can be achieved in four decades.
We will not have to wait 40 years, however, to derive much greater economic benefits from weather than we have today. While research on weather modification if progressing, there are interim steps which can, and I am confident, will be taken. These steps do not require the exhaustive and detailed research needed for weather control. They require only the application of electronic devices already in existence or under development. And while these steps will not give us control of the weather, they will give us an opportunity to mitigate its harmful effects through a completely accurate system of weather forecasting.
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Weather forecasting and description of the system…..
“I have proposed a multi-million dollar program to set up an almost entirely automatic reporting and forecasting system. The money would be spent at the rate of several million dollars annually over the next ten years.”
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A discussion of artificial rain making…..
“The present method of “modifying” a cloud is known as “seeding” because it consists of introducing into the cloud certain particles which collect moisture and fall to the ground as rain or snow. It is used to increase precipitation over any designated area.”
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A discussion on how to prevent rain, dissipate fog, and the control of hurricanes, tornados, heavy thunderstorms, hail, and lightning…..
“How will we be able to prevent rain? Theoretically by overseeding a cloud. If too many crystals should be introduced into a cloud, some scientists say, no single crystal would be able to collect enough moisture to fall. The result: the crystals would dissipate in the air after absorbing all the moisture in the cloud – and the cloud itself would evaporate. However, this theory has never been tested, and many scientists think that overseeding is impossible.”
If later research does prove that overseeding can, in effect, dry up a cloud, we might be able to apply the same technique to clearing fog; a fog bank is essentially a cloud of tiny water particles in suspension. The technique might help dissipate destructive storms in the build-up stage. Storms might be curbed in another way – by normal seeding in the build-up stage to convert clouds to rain before they can build up violence.
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Examples of successful rain and snow making…..
Howell Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a commercial “rain-making” concern
“About a dozen other firms are also working commercially in “rain making”, offering to drain precipitation from clouds for a fee. Two of the best known are North American Consultants of Pasadena, California, and the Water Resources Development Corporation, of Denver, Colorado. The Denver company is doing an estimated gross business of more than a million dollars a year – a figure that Dr. Irving P. Krick, the president, says is “very small compared to what I know it is going to be”.
Krick has a ready answer for skeptics. “What do they know?” he says. “They are the people who have little or no knowledge of weather modification, or base their judgments on a single unsuccessful experiment. Over the last five years, our company has operated more than 150 separate projects in 18 states and six foreign countries. We have amassed more than 200,000 hours of seeding experience in varying latitudes. We don’t think we can increase rainfall – we know it.”
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I have mentioned the possibility of using weather control as a weapon. In that realm, I defer to my colleague, Lieutenant Commander William J. Kotsch, a Navy meteorologist who has made a detailed study of the question.
Kotsch believes submarines could hamper enemy aircraft-carrier operations by seeding the area in which they were operating. The resulting precipitation would reduce the ceiling and visibility, effectively grounding the carrier’s planes. On the other hand, a fleet – or ground force – might hide from enemy aircraft in self-made weather.
Or take amphibious warfare. Suppose an assault area is covered by low clouds which would preclude the use of aircraft for ground support. If we can again assume that the theory of cloud dissipation by overseeding holds up, a submarine or two could dissipate the clouds.
Kotsch also points out that Russia would be at a disadvantage in any “strategic weather warfare,” because weather characteristically moves from west to east. Just as long-range bombers move deep into enemy territory to destroy targets of supply, weather-control planes operating from Western European bases might be able to deluge any selected area of Russia with heavy rain, disrupting lines of supply or movements of armored units by causing truck convoys and tanks to bog down in mud.
Just how would seeding operate? I believe they could drop time-fused balloons at a point determined by wind forecasts, perhaps several hundred miles from the target area. The balloons, carried by the jet stream, a high-speed upper-air current, would explode at a predetermined point where reconnaissance has shown moisture clouds to exist. The explosion would release crystals into the clouds. During the moisture-collecting process, normal low-level winds would push the clouds toward the target area. If preliminary computations prove correct, rain should start to fall just as the clouds drift over the designated area.
Attacking the Enemy’s Food Supply
Weather modification might also be employed to strike at the enemy’s food supply. Moisture clouds could be intercepted en route, overseeded and dried up, depriving crops of needed moisture and in time causing just as serious a military situation as lack of munitions.
These possible military uses of weather control are only theoretical. The Navy is not actively experimenting in this field because we have not yet achieved mastery over the atmosphere which such operations require.
While weather-modification techniques are being developed, I feel we should go ahead with establishment of a completely accurate national electronic weather-reporting and forecasting network. Electronic devices are needed not only to collect the information required to make weather forecasts completely accurate, but also to get the forecasts to the public much earlier. Today, the tremendous number of calculations involved in rapidly changing weather take so long to complete that conditions may have changed before the forecasts reach the public.
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Further discussion of a weather reporting system…..
Behind the radar-warning network, I hope to see the completely accurate electronic weather-reporting system developed. Meantime, research on weather modification will continue.
The degree to which it will progress is questionable. Perhaps some of the current theories on how to control weather will not prove feasible. On the other hand, continuing research in the field may produce some completely new developments, undreamed of today, which permit even greater steps in weather mastery than the possibilities I have suggested.
Man may well be on the threshold in a new era in which he will disprove the adage that nothing can be done about the weather.
To see the entire article on the internet: www.unz.org/Pub/Colliers–1954may28-00025
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