As last year’s devastating Atlantic hurricanes swept through the Caribbean and southern United States, we’re left wondering, “Is there anything we can do to prevent such horrific disasters?”
Since the 1950’s, scientists have made efforts to intentionally manipulate or alter the weather – a phenomenon called “weather modding.” The most common technique is called “cloud seeding,” in which chemicals such as silver iodide are dispersed into the atmosphere to increase rainfall. Some scientists have looked towards cloud seeding as a potential way to disrupt storms like hurricanes. According to an article by Peter Ray Allison of BBC Future, “Silver iodide is an inorganic compound used as an antiseptic. The theory was that the silver iodide would cause the supercooled water in the storm to freeze, thereby disrupting the internal structure of the hurricane.”
Although theoretically, this seems like a potential solution, there are many logistical problems. The amount of silver iodide needed to disperse a hurricane is enormous, and we currently do not have planes or drones that can hold enough silver iodide to make an impact – let alone do it safely and effectively. And even if cloud seeding was scalable and effective, there are so many unknowns about what kind of ecological effect it would have.
“But we can control how we effect the environment and how we influence the weather.”
At the current moment, these proposed solutions are limited by scale, technology, and uncertainty. Nature is unpredictable and the simple truth is: no, we cannot control the weather. But we can control how we effect the environment and how we influence the weather.
Daily human activity on a global scale produces a greater impact than any theoretical solution we might invent to control climate and “conquer” natural disasters. It would make more sense to invest our efforts into being more responsible about the way we do things to try and avoid extreme weather rather than try and develop an unrealistic quick fix with uncertain consequences. If each of us can be more conscious about the way we produce and consume, always paying attention to what kind of impact we are making, we can contribute to more stable ecological systems, limit environmental degradation, and better sustain habitats for all living things.