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Planet Earth

Microwave a Tornado, Lase a Rainstorm

Scientists are developing new technology to control old natural hazards.


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The newest plans to modify the weather are conceptual or in an embryonic stage. If they work, they will bring us one step closer to dominion over the elements that often disrupt our lives.

Tornado Terminator In 1998, the late physicist Bernard Eastlund suggested that we might control twisters with a space-based, solar-collecting microwave generator, which he called the Thunderstorm Solar Power Satellite. The microwaves would heat the rainy downdraft inside the storm, disrupting the convective forces needed to concentrate the tornado’s power, and so effectively stop it from forming. The concept now awaits development by a new generation of weather modification experts.

Laser Rain Keitaro Yoshihara of the Toyota Physical and Chemical Research Institute in Nagakute, Japan, is using an ultraviolet laser to generate water droplets, mist, or ice particles from the ambient air in his lab. Such small-scale photochemical seeding would produce rain in greenhouses or biospheres.

A Strike at Lightning Lighting kills 62 Americans a year, on average, and controlling it would prevent those deaths. That is the goal at the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing in Florida, where scientists are launching a special rocket that triggers lightning strikes. These strikes occur just where the researchers want them, suggesting the promise of a technology that would redirect bolts from the sky with far more precision than the lightning rods of today. 

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