Scientists Make Dozens of Storms in the Abu Dhabi Desert?
Claims of Manmade Rain Clouds Spark Skepticism
Camels and trucks travel on a main desert road in Abu Dhabi while rain descends in the background
Photograph by James Davis Photography, Alamy
In arid lands, the ability to create fresh water out of thin air would be priceless.
Now a Swiss company, Meteo Systems, is poised to earn a pretty penny in Abu Dhabi with a controversial weather modification system said to be responsible for dozens of rain showers in the desert last summer.
The claim is difficult to verify but certainly has raised a storm of skepticism among many leading weather modification experts.
“As far as I’m concerned I don’t believe these claims,” said Roelof Bruintjes, who heads the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s international weather modification programs. “There’s no scientific basis for this; the physics doesn’t support it.”
While typical weather modification efforts — which began in the mid-20th century and continue in nations from the United States to China — make use of natural clouds and attempt to “seed” them to produce precipitation, Meteo Systems purports to create the clouds themselves.
Their system uses arrays of 33-foot (10-meter) electric towers that produce negatively charged ions, according to the company. These ions bind with tiny solid and liquid particles, supercharging the particles’ ability to form clouds and precipitation.
Joseph Golden, a weather modification expert who once chaired the now-defunct Atmospheric Modification Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), also has serious doubts that the technique could work.
“This method is inherently incapable of producing clouds out of thin air,” Golden said.
A Long History of Ionization
The Technical University of Munich’s Peter Wilderer, winner of the 2003 Stockholm Water Prize, said people have been attempting ionization techniques for decades.
"The ionization technology was first mentioned in 1890 by [Nikola] Tesla. In 1946 General Electric executed some field trials under the leadership of [Bernard] Vonnegut [brother of novelist Kurt Vonnegut]. Later the technology was used for military purposes in the former Soviet Union."
Wilder added that reviews of radar images suggested to him that ionization could possibly have some effect, under proper meteorological conditions. Despite press reports to the contrary, he has never personally witnessed any rainfall events produced by Meteo Systems.
Show Me the Data
NOAA’s Golden is interested in hearing much more from the scientists trying to make it rain in the desert.
“I put out a challenge to any of those that are involved in this project and making these claims. Show me the data,” he said.
There may be little chance of such transparency in the near term, however, as Meteo Systems is closely guarding the secrets of the potentially valuable technology the company has dubbed “WEATHERTEC.”
Meteo Systems did not respond to calls and emails from National Geographic News.
The directors of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, who have been erroneously linked to the project via media reports, released a statement expressing “distress” that the scientific organization had been associated in any way with the work of Meteo Systems. They added that rainstorms were part of unusual weather patterns in the Middle East last summer.
“Our institute has no connection whatsoever to this work, nor have we been privy to the underlying evidence that the company is using to support its claims,” the statement said.
“We also note that many people have a financial stake in seeing these claims being credibly reported by the media, and that to the extent rain showers in the region were unusual this summer, they accompanied rather unusual weather patterns over the broader region, which certainly had nothing to do with the very localized experiments in Abu Dhabi. One only needs to be reminded of the terrible flooding over neighboring Pakistan.”
NCAR’s Bruintjes noted that the UN-based World Meteorological Organization’s expert team on weather modification research met in Abu Dhabi in March 2010, and issued a report on the state of the science that cautioned against just this type of technology.
“The energy involved in weather systems is so large that it is impossible to create cloud systems that rain,” the WMO report read. “Weather modification technologies that claim to achieve such large-scale or dramatic effects do not have sound scientific basis (e.g. hail cannons, ionization methods) and should be treated with suspicion.”
Golden said people who are simply desperate to fool Mother Nature often pay for modification techniques that are unproven at best, including the hail cannons mentioned in the WMO report. “Farmers invest thousands of dollars in those cannons to suppress hail even though the scientific evidence is that they don’t work,” he said.
Bruintjes put his point bluntly: “The rotation of the Earth, the energy of the Sun, and moisture from the oceans cause these things. None of us can change that, and it’s actually good that none of us can change that because we’d likely make a mess of it.”
(Related: “Planes Create Weird Clouds—And Snow, Rain Fall Out.” “China’s Rain-Free Olympics Plan Met With Skepticism.”)
What Meteo Systems Has to Say:
The World is Running Out of Fresh Water
Growth in population together with industrial, commercial and agricultural development is driving the need for increasing amounts of fresh water. Yet the world has no more spare rivers or untapped aquifers from which we can take the increasing supplies of fresh water we need and transport it economically to where it is needed. And desalinization is too expensive and energy intensive to be a practical solution for most of the world.
Other than air, water is our most basic and vital natural resource. It sustains all other activities and is an essential foundation of economies, societies and human life. Only 2.5% of all the water on Earth – on or close to the surface – is freshwater, suitable for drinking and growing food. Nearly 70% of this water is locked in glaciers and ice caps. In fact, only a tiny percentage of the world’s existing fresh water is part of the water cycle, whereby water evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, then condenses and falls back to Earth as precipitation (rain, hail or snow). Most is water stored in glaciers, lakes and aquifers, accumulated over eons.
Of course, most natural precipitation falls into oceans. Some precipitation runs off land to lakes and oceans, and some becomes groundwater, water that seeps into the earth. Much of the freshwater of the water cycle ends up in remote places like the Amazon, where few people now live.
Harvesting Atmospheric Humidity
Some 19% of global water is contained in the atmosphere as water vapor, and this potential supply of fresh water is increasing as the temperature of the earth also unfortunately increases. This means that the amount of water in the air to be mined as rain is actually increasing, so there is no danger of using up this huge airborne water storage bin.
As noted above, however, very little of this huge supply of atmospheric water falls as precipitation in the right amounts and the right places. This is the challenge WEATHERTEC is addressing.
Since humankind can no longer take abundant supplies of fresh water for granted, our brightest minds, energy and resources must focus on finding solutions today. For our planet’s future, innovative plans and the most sophisticated technologies are needed both to tackle water shortages that lead to food crises, and to protect the environment by producing more clean, green hydro energy.
Therefore, we have both the opportunity – and the moral obligation – to develop, use and invest in these solutions. WEATHERTEC™ is the new leading-edge technology to secure the future supply of freshwater in many areas of need. It also has other applications to reduce some of the most negative impacts of weather.
New Illuminati comments: These skeptics obviously have little idea of the capabilities of systems that make use of precise frequency tuning and resonance. One would think that none of these ‘experts’ have ever researched any aspect of the HAARP array – for instance – and have little notion of technological and theoretical advances occurring in the world today.
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