Can We Control the Weather?

Can We Control the Weather? Insult My Intelligence

Tim Dowling investigates the history of weather control, with the help of guests Dr Kristine Harper and Jim Fleming. Starting with the con men in the 19th century, through to the government sponsored weather control of the 20th century and even what the future of weather control and climate change could look like. Despite a history littered with weather control failures governments have continued to invest huge amounts to control the skies.
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Show Notes

Can We Control the Weather?

In this episode Tim Dowling speaks with two experts on the history of weather control, Dr Katherine Harper author of Make it Rain: State Control of the Atmosphere in Twentieth Century America and Jim Fleming author of Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control.

Before the US government became involved in weather control, “rainmakers” would travel from town to town in the American west selling their mix of chemicals as a way to make it rain. The most famous example is Charles Hatifeld, who in 1915 was offered $10,000 by the city of San Diego to break their drought. By January 1916 Hatifield’s tower with his chemicals were in place. And sure enough, on January 5, 1916, it began to rain over San Diego. The rain got heavier. Riverbeds overflowed, and bridges were washed away. On the 20th the rain finally stopped, but then started right up again. On January 27th the lower Otway dam broke, causing untold damage and at least 20 deaths. In a resulting lawsuit it was ruled that Charles Hatfield had not actually done anything to create rain and was not liable for the $3 million in damage.

The US government started their involvement in the late 19th century by blasting cannons into the sky, due to the theory that it usually rains after a battle. As Dr Katherine Harper points out most battles don’t start when it’s raining and storm systems pass every 3-4 days so there is no causational link between battles and rain. However, during WW1, WW2 and the Vietnam war the US military started testing weather control projects, with limited success. They even used rainmaking as a weapon against the Viet Cong.

More recently China has become interested in controlling the weather, they have added the Beijing Weather Modification Office to the Chinese Meteorological Administration. One successful weather control project was preventing it from raining on the day of the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2008.

The future of weather control lies in climate control or geoengineering, but with weather controls less than impressive history both Dr Kristine Harper and Jim Fleming are concerned about that future. Carbon capture, the idea to remove carbon from the atmosphere, still has no solution for what to do with that captured carbon. Other geoengineering solutions don’t take into account many potential unknown consequences. Given the low success rate of human attempts at controlling the weather relying on systems to control the entire climate may be a risk

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