Secret operations performed by the United States government and its agents have always been catnip for conspiracy theorists both home and abroad, but a July 17 recent story in Mother Jones magazine Dana Liebelson and Chris Mooney about the Central Intelligence Agency using a $630,000 grant to support methods of weather modification took concerns about an omnipotent and manipulating government to a new level.
This may seem like a last ditch effort to prevent extreme climate change, which it is, but it is also just one of many operations funded and undertaken by federal agencies, because in fact, the CIA along with NOAA and NASA are old hands at manhandling the forces of nature. Not only that, but between 1969 and 1970 the Federal Government spent a total of $40,433,973 on weather modification programs, which is pennies compared to $630,000; especially when you take into account that in 1970 dozens eggs costs 25 cents and the average car was $3,900.
They also wanted to reduce the effects of extreme climate change, which the scientists believed was caused by the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, the cultivation of crops, putting up buildings, and paving roads and parking lots.
As far back as the late 40s, respected scientists worked hard to modify the weather. Their objectives then were not really that sinister. The focus, then, was on finding ways to increase or decrease rain and snow in a specific location, reduce damage to crops and property from hailstorms and reduce the number of forest fires sparked by lightning.
There were also studies in hail suppression, fog and cloud dissipation, cloud electricity and lightning and inadvertent weather modification, all performed by colleges, universities and state and federal organizations.
Other projects sought to remove fog at airports, so planes could safely land and take off and experiments on how to change the climate of a specific location.
Taming storms was also a major area of research. Scientists looked for ways to change the intensity and direction of hurricanes so that they caused less damage, and otherwise reduce the destructiveness of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Around the same time NOAA, the Stanford Research Institute, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Navy, and Air Force were just some of the entities who conducted hurricane and tornado modification experiments under the title of Project Stormfury. Project THEMIS had the same objectives and had the help of agencies such as the U.S. Army, Oklahoma State University, and NASA.
Starting in the winter of 1970, several organizations, including Colorado State University, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the National Science Foundation, took part in as the Colorado River Basin Pilot and Pyramid Lake Pilot projects to research methods of cloud seeding, an artificial method of increasing precipitation.
Beyond the urge to save the world or help the farmers, successful weather modification has the potential for extreme profits, too.
For example, fog on runways costs airlines hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. To the airline executive, controlling the weather was just another way to control his variables, the same way he would hedge fuel costs or secure a favorable lease at a passenger terminal.
But, with every game changer, there are winners and losers.
“The economical benefits produced by weather modification are not likely to be distributed uniformly in our society. Some groups may have considerable gains while other groups may incur losses as a result of weather modification activities.”(Summary Report: Weather Modification Fiscal Years 1969, 1970, 1971).
The report authors said they were comfortable with making the call.
“Obviously, the decision to seed or not to seed must consider the net economic gains expected from the proposed operation,” the authors said. But, in the big picture, if farmers made a net gain greater of that than the construction agency, then precipitation in an area would be increased. Farming 1, Construction 0.
All of this was cloaked under a cloud of secrecy. Researchers feared public opinion shutting down operations. “The people and laws of the country have a potential for seriously impeding the progress of weather modification. In a democratic society, public opinion can have a strong influence on decisions of policy.”
Given the vagaries of public opinion, the report said researchers would be much more comfortable with their programs under federal control, shielded from scrutiny and legal jeopardy and for that: “Federal control is required.”
In the Second World War bad weather nearly scuttled the D-Day invasion of Normandy and during the Battle of the Bulge, weeks of heavy cloud cover neutralized Allied air superiority, allowed German ground troops and armor to attack and maneuver unmolested from the air.
With these and other examples fresh in the minds of American leaders, it should not be surprising the value they placed on weather modification as a tool of national security in the years after the war ended.
But, it was President James E. “Jimmy” Carter, who harnessed the weather modification projects for environmental goals.
Today, with the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program and other weather modification programs, there is little doubt the CIA is performing experiments in geoengineering.
The secrets behind these operations must be uncovered, so that the public knows what is going on and thus have this vast manipulation of nature be controlled by legislation and the people it represents.
The ability to save billions of dollars’ worth of soy bean crops, ensure clear skies for military operations or counteract climate change without changing the regular operations of our industrial base is a compelling goal.
But, in the hands of the wrong men, or just the wrong man, the ability to modify weather becomes a military, economic or ecological weapon of overwhelming significance.
Understandably, the players in the weather modification game prefer the safe harbor of government grants and legal immunity. But, in private hands, subject to the constraints of a free press, civil penalties the people have a more perfect protection.