Weather modification in real life and in my novels

October 1, 2013 1:26 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I have written three thrillers that use the same two protagonists, both research meteorologists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Monterey, California. In fact, NRL Monterey is where I worked until I retired in 2001. Two of the three novels, the first, Category 5, and my latest, White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy, involve weather modification. As you might expect, my antagonists are not using this technology to better our society.

The reason for my fascination with weather modification is that much of my early career as a research scientist involved that field of study, which is based primarily on the science of cloud physics. For those unfamiliar with this term, cloud physics refers to the study of the droplets and particles (and their interactions) that make up fogs and clouds—and ultimately weather systems. The late sixties and seventies were a heyday for weather modification. Much of the research at the time involved cloud seeding, usually to increase rainfall. However, my specialty was fog dissipation, and I worked in this area for about a decade. Back then, the military funded much of this work because of its interest in landing airplanes under poor visibility conditions. I focused on the more common warm fog (temperatures above freezing). In 1969, I also had the privilege of briefly participating in Project Stormfury, an experiment designed to weaken hurricanes.

With my background in mind, I gave my mind free reign to think of more imaginative methods to modify weather. In Category 5, the bad guys hoist a powerful laser into space, their intent being to strengthen and steer hurricanes for terrorist purposes. Although incredible, the premise is reasonable; tropical scientists know that tropical cyclones respond to water temperatures. In fact, sufficiently warm water is one requirement for a tropical cyclone to form in the first place. Further, we know that, once formed, a tropical cyclone can strengthen or weaken as it migrates over warmer or colder water. To be sure, building a powerful enough laser to create that much heating is fantastic—and unrealistic. But so was extracting DNA from amber to create a dinosaur in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.

With my latest thriller, White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy, I’ve turned my attention to global climate change, the environmental topic of our time. We’ve all heard of global warming and melting glaciers. In an attempt to create environmental havoc (for their own nefarious purposes), my antagonists secretly transport and operate two nuclear reactors on the ice in Greenland (another incredible, fantastic premise, but yet plausible). By sending superheated steam down to the base of the Helheim Glacier, they intend to release the Helheim as well as other eastern Greenland glaciers into the North Atlantic, creating an environmental catastrophe.

So, I guess that my interest in weather modification has come full circle. My meteorological career began with weather modification, and now I am trying to write interesting stories using that technology.

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This post was written by paulmarktag01