“How’s the weather?” is far more than a shallow conversation starter. It’s a serious issue.
Many would be surprised to know that 100 years ago, the scientific interest in weather surpassed mere observation and advanced into outright modification. A brief survey of mainstream news reports and public documents in the United States confirms a largely ignored dimension of man-made climate change.
The first person known to claim successful weather modification was the “Ohio Rain Wizard,” Frank Melbourne. When asked in 1891 about how he did it, he would only divulge that “it is the infusion of certain chemicals in the air through a machine of my invention.”
In 1902, Charles Hatfield created a mixture of 23 chemicals in large galvanized evaporating tanks that purportedly attracted rain. In May 1905, the Dawson Daily News reported, “The indisputable fact is that Hatfield went into the hills 19 times to bring on a rain, and 19 times it rained when he promised.” He was paid by Los Angeles merchants to bring 18 inches of rain in a given time and received his $1,000 reward. The City of San Diego later hired him to end a drought, but the result was a flash flood that caused extensive damages and denied Hatfield his reward.
Weather modification was pursued in earnest following the Second World War.
On Nov. 13, 1946, a pilot in General Electric’s research division flew Dr. Vincent J. Schaefer 50 km off the New York coast. After they reached an elevation of 4,270 metres (14,000 feet), Schaefer released 1.36 kg (three pounds) of dry ice and created a snowstorm.
In 1950, his research colleague, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Irving Langmuir, said under the right conditions, just 30 mg of silver iodide in the atmosphere could unleash the same power as an atomic bomb.
The weather modification arms race was on. President Dwight D. Eisenhower formed an advisory committee on the issue in 1953. It was chaired by Capt. Howard T. Orville, who told The American Weekly in 1958 that it was imperative that they beat the Russians in weather mastery.
In 1966, Homer E. Newell issued A Recommended National Program In Weather Modification to the Interdepartmental Committee for Atmospheric Sciences.
Over the next 12 years, weather modification was implemented on a widespread and effective scale. In 1978, these efforts were documented in a 750-page report to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation of the U.S. Senate.
“Defence Department aircraft work all weather patterns in the mid-Atlantic states,” the report explained. In the southern counties of Pennsylvania, as many as 160 flights to change the weather would be conducted within 24 hours. Sometimes these aircraft dispersed ice nuclei to dissipate summer storms expected to form. At other times, winter storms were changed into rain, leaching the soil of fertility and eroding crop yields. Droughts and floods sometimes resulted. Pennsylvania State University conducted research in defiance of the law and lied about the outcomes. The school engaged in blackmail, helped in the obstruction of the law by other state and federal agencies. The report called it “a meteorological Watergate.”
The Senate report stated that by 1973, weather modification had been conducted by at least 62 nations. “International co-operation in the exchange of ideas on and methods of water modification has also been extensive.” The report says, “In November 1975, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations environment program held a four-day meeting to discuss, among other issues, the possible liability of WMO and the other participants in the worldwide precipitation enhancement program.” The report also says the United States was modifying the strength of hurricanes.
The military advantages and legal liabilities of weather modification have left its perpetrators preferring the cloak of secrecy in the 40 years since that report. Just the same, observers such as Jim Lee and Canadian Domenic Marrama of climateviewer.com and Dane Wigington of geoengineeringwatch.org have confirmed extensive and disturbing technological interference in our weather that continues to this day.
This history teaches us an important lesson. Don’t blame carbon emissions on weird weather. That’s a convenient distraction welcomed, if not advanced, by corporations and governments that have been changing the weather quite intentionally.
Citizens of Canada and other nations don’t need carbon taxes. They need their governments to expose the full extent of weather modification projects, whether academic, corporate or military. From there, strict regulation, if not an outright moratorium, must follow.
Any international agreement on climate change that ignores weather modification is at best a misplaced effort and at worst a ruse.
As it stands, those who can best answer the question “How is the weather?” want to keep the answer to themselves.
Lee Harding is a research associate at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.