Let It Rain . . . or Maybe Not

According to National Geographic News (18 Jan 2011) in an article written by Brian Handwerk:

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.

Their system (Meteo’s) uses arrays of 33-foot (10-meter) electric towers that produce negatively charged ions, according to the company.  These ions bind with tiny sold and liquid particles, supercharing the particles’ abililty to form clouds and precipitation.

Meteo Systems Alleged Rainmakers

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.

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.  hale cannons, ionization methods) and should be treated with suspicion.”

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