In the wake of hurricanes that left devastation in their path, some people have been asking an intriguing question: can we control the weather, and if so, how?
Will bullets stop a storm? Here's why we shouldn't even try to test whether or not they can.
The most common way to face a natural disaster has been to prepare for its impact, not try to stop it in its tracks. However, some Floridians thought to take meteorological matters into their own hands. Florida resident Ryon Edwards created a Facebook event page called “Shoot at Hurricane Irma”, inviting his friends to, well, shoot at Hurricane Irma.
It was all just for fun, of course. Edwards and his friends knew that it was a joke, and a number of the more than 55,000 people that joined the event probably knew as well. However, it wasn't something that others took lightly. Florida police had to resort to making an announcement warning people against shooting at the hurricane. “You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects,” the Pasco Sheriff's office tweeted.
Once an extreme weather event begins, we can't stop it in its tracks.
So what can we do to make a hurricane turn around? Nothing, really. We can't consciously stop a hurricane once it has formed, or make it turn around, or shoot bullets into it to make it weaker. "We have no real idea how to control weather in the sense of a hurricane," says John Moore, a scientist at Beijing Normal University. "All that realistically can be done is changing the thermodynamics of the system, which largely means changing the sea-surface temperatures."
However, there have been conspiracy theories that claim that large, destructive weather events like Hurricane Irma are the work of the government. Let's not delve into why, theoretically, any government would create a hurricane or a large storm. Instead, let's look at another aspect of the theory—how any entity would be able to control the weather. The answer, apparently? Satellites. The only problem, of course, is that current satellite technology isn't capable of controlling the weather at any scale.
Warm waters at certain temperatures create hurricanes. For satellites to be able to create the conditions in which a hurricane can form, we'd have to be able to direct enough energy onto the ocean water, affecting a sufficiently large area. Perhaps lasers from hundred of satellites will be able to heat the water enough—but we don't currently have the technology.
Can we nip hurricanes at the bud?
So, we can't create hurricanes the way we, for example, create roast chicken. We also can't weaken it or stop it once the conditions are right. Does this mean, therefore, that we'll be at the mercy of other weather events like Harvey and Irma for the foreseeable future?
Not necessarily. Scientists have long been saying that human-driven climate change will make weather more extreme. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are evidence that these predictions are correct. Rising global temperatures have made waters warmer, making it more possible for large hurricanes to form.
What we can do is to simply manage hurricanes and other extreme weather events. We can't control the weather, but we can make sure that things don't get worse than they already are. This entails cutting carbon emissions and working to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
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