Climate change can cause dramatic shifts in global temperatures and weather patterns. And while scientists won’t be able to reverse all of the negative impacts of these changes, they are looking for ways to lessen the effects by controlling the weather. Following is a transcript of the video.
Humans have gotten really good at predicting the weather, but we’ve had a hard time figuring out how to control it.
Now with the threat of rising global temperatures and severe droughts, scientists are racing to develop technologies that will actually change the weather.
Scientists are literally “making it rain.” Cloud seeding is the process of adding particles to clouds to force them to rain or snow. It has already been tested around the globe. The goal is to increase precipitation in places with water shortages.
Cloud-seeding is a form of geoengineering- or manipulating of weather systems to reduce the negative effects of climate change.
Here’s how it works. Silver iodide gets sprinkled into clouds by airplanes or blasted up into clouds on rockets. Another possible technique that China is exploring is using winds to naturally transport the silver iodide into the clouds.
Silver iodide has a very similar structure to ice, so the ice crystals in the cloud will bond to it, making the cloud increasingly heavy until it releases its moisture as rain or snow.
And so far, preliminary tests look promising. For example, cloud seeding tests in Wyoming – where snowpack is a primary source of water – reportedly increased snowfall in the area by 5-15%.
But cloud seeding can be used for more than just curing droughts.
The European company called Oliver’s Travels offers “cloud-bursting” services to prevent rain on your wedding day. And China used cloud seeding during the Beijing Olympics to make sure clouds released precipitation before reaching the capital.
Some of these tests seem to be working, but there’s no telling what the consequences could be if we start toying with Mother Nature on such a level.
One clear downside is that if we force it to rain in one region, those clouds won’t have water left to drop in other areas that may also need it.
Scientists aren’t just adding substances to clouds, they’re also creating clouds. The process is called stratospheric aerosol injection. The goal is to prevent too much sunlight from entering the atmosphere by reflecting it back into space.
With less sunlight reaching the Earth, the temperature would theoretically drop and, hopefully reduce global warming and its effects.
This already happens naturally. When volcanoes erupt, they shoot thick sulfurous clouds into the air that block the sun’s rays and cool the planet.
Scientists at Harvard University are researching the possibility of creating a similar effect without the volcano. First, they plan to use balloons to create normal clouds out of ice particles. Then, once they’ve perfected that method, they hope to move on to chemicals that can block even more light.
The chemicals released in a volcanic explosion, called sulfate-aerosols, would probably work the best, but they can damage the ozone layer. So Harvard scientists are looking into other chemicals that might do the job without risking ozone damage.
But it will be a while before we know how this would work on a large scale, and if there are any side effects. So until more research is done, it’s hard to tell if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Needless to say, controlling the weather is complicated. But there are other technologies in development that could help battle the extreme effects of climate change.
Several companies have come up with ways to convert fog to drinking water in areas with severe droughts. And it’s already being used in places like California, Morocco and Chile.
But the best way for us to control the weather is to cut emissions now.
For decades, researchers have explored ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it somewhere else, like deep in the ocean or inside bedrock. Some researchers are even trying to turn it into building materials, like concrete and bricks.
But if we continue to fill the air with greenhouse gases at the rate we are now, ultimately there will be too much for us to bury or sink.
Reducing emissions would help eliminate the need for all of these technologies in the first place and then we wouldn’t need to worry about controlling the weather.
But let’s face it, there are some days where it would be really convenient.
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