By George Pendle
For more than 60 years, humans have been trying to change the weather. But does cloud seeding really work?
ob Simpson was just seven years old when the weather first tried to kill him. It was 1919 when a hurricane hit Corpus Christi, Texas, and his family home was swamped beneath surging storm waters. His father told him to cling to him as he swam out of the submerged house. For the rest of his life, Simpson would try to get his own back on the weather.
Now, at the age of 99, Simpson can lay claim to being the grand old man of American meteorology. As the founder of the National Hurricane Research Project in 1955, he flew into the eye of hurricanes in unarmoured planes. That’s his name on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, by which hurricane strength is classed from category one (“large branches of trees will snap”) to category five (“total roof failure and wall collapse”). But it was through his appointment in 1962 as the first director of Project Stormfury, the US government’s two-decade-long quest to subdue hurricanes, that Simpson partook in his most intriguing endeavour, as the man who oversaw the boom and bust of the American dream to change the weather.
Today, weather modification is seen as a sort of quasi science, located at the indistinct crossroads of meteorology, cloud physics and atmospheric research and hampered by a lack of evidence. But in a world of rapidly changing weather patterns, drought-plagued farmers continue to demand its implementation and scientists across the world continue to investigate it.
and WASP sends –
ON THIS STORY
- Atmospheric patterns herald El Niño
- US hurricane forecast favours oil bears
- La Niña ends but El Niño threat looms
- Hopes grow of weakening La Niña
- The weather La Niña rolls in for a second round