How Weather Can Be Changed By People

by blackspanielgallery

When man alters the atmosphere the results can be far reaching and well beyond any scope imagined. Can a person inadvertently cause a tornado? Are hurricanes ever beneficial?

Man can, and sometimes does, alter the weather. In some cases it is deliberate. In some cases it is accidental, and the results are not done deliberately. In other cases we have no idea how the weather has been impacted, but the possibility is there. Sometimes, we have to go about our business not knowing, and that is because we have altered the atmosphere, but cannot fathom the totality of what we have caused.

Some changes are beneficial, others are harmful. In the discussion below we can see that sometimes a benefit and a problem are both the result. It was once suggested by a scientist that vehicles passing each other on a highway can cause a rotation, and that angular momentum can contribute to a tornadic storm in some distant place and some future time. But this does not mean we should all feel responsible for every tornado if we have driven past another moving vehicle. However, other cases are more profound, and we can react if we understand.

A Man Caused Tornado

Some years back I regularly attended a local meteorology meeting.  It was the local chapter of the American Meteorological Society, and met every other month.  The meeting was attended by many meteorologists, a few of us who are physicists, and other interested parties.  One month we had a presentation by a person from a satellite office, who showed some interesting images from weather satellite observation.  One image was particularly interesting.  It showed the center of the United States.


Clouds often form in what are referred to as cloud streets where clouds seem to play follow the leader.  This is not surprising since whatever caused the air to rise and form the cloud, a small hill, a hot spot, or whatever, usually is stationary, so clouds continue to form one after the other as moist air passes over the spot.  The image we viewed was that of cloud streets where moist air from the Gulf of Mexico was forming clouds.  Two of the cloud streets were enhanced and the clouds continued onward from just north of the Gulf of Mexico through the United States.


The group was directed to the enhanced cloud street images.  The enhancement occurred as the clouds passed over smoke stacks of two paper mills.  Smoke is often electrically charged and can collect moisture, so smoke provides excellent condensation nuclei.  What we could not tell, but ground observations confirmed, is that one of the enhanced cloud streets dropped a tornado in Illinois, hundreds of miles from the smoke stack that caused the cloud growth.  The paper mill caused the tornado, but those operating the paper mill intended no harm.  Weather once altered can manifest an unwanted change miles away from the point where the alteration occurred.


The Ugly Pollution Weather Machine of Louisiana

I spend a lot of time travelling on the highway, and Louisiana has many plants and refineries along the Mississippi River that I can see.  On some days the sky is blue, except for the area over the flares burning chemicals.  Over these flares the smoke plumes combine to make cumulus congestus clouds.  The clouds on a more cloudy day might trigger thunderstorms downwind of the smoke plumes.  And, since the burned chemicals are the condensation nuclei, what is really falling in the raindrops?  Even if the drops are safe, the weather is changed.  And, should anyone living downwind of these plants install solar power is it really fair to keep clouds over their homes on many days so wastes can be burned off?

The Butterfly Effect

Some years back a theory was proposed that if a butterfly flaps its wings it could be the trigger for a major storm on the other side of the world.  Like anything, some point must be reached to trigger a storm, and any air movement might be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” so to speak.

The Unspoken of Problem

One thing I am surprised at is not seeing is anyone pointing to smoking as a weather and climate problem.  In the most severe form one cigarette can start a forest fire, release an enormous amount carbon dioxide from that burning forest into the air, and remove healthy trees.  But, every cigarette smoked burns plant material, which releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  So, it is just one.  One times how many for one person, then times how many for all smokers?  And, to make matters worse, the act of burning itself increases the heat energy of the atmosphere.  If we accept the butterfly effect as viable, then which smoked cigarette might be the tipping point in global warming?


Problems with Cloud Seeding

Cloud seeding has been an idea that has been suggested many years ago.  The way it works is silver iodide crystals are introduced into a cloud, and act as freezing nuclei.  Unless a cloud has both water and ice in the same part of the cloud, precipitation is very unlikely.  Silver iodide crystals have the same shape and about the same lattice spacing as ice, so the water vapor collects on it as though it were a group of small ice crystals.


There was a story in a book I read about forty years ago of a cloud close to producing.  A person had the cloud seeded as it passed over his farm, and it indeed produced rain on his crops.  As the cloud moved n it continued to grow, and the hail from the now much stronger cloud flattened the neighbor’s crop.  Remember, what is done to the atmosphere in one place impacts places far away, or in this case not that far away.

The Beneficial Hurricane

In this area there are people who would like hurricanes to just never form.  But, they have a job to do.  They bring heat energy from the surface of the Earth near the equator and distribute it.  They might just keep the north from getting too cold. 


Then, many years ago I read the accounts of a hurricane that turned north before reaching land, then west in its recurve.  This is normal as a hurricane goes around a high pressure cell.  What makes this a special case is that there was a drought in France, and the rainstorm which was the remnant of the hurricane broke the drought.  And, the hurricane caused no damage.

In Summary

A change in the atmosphere, intentional or not, can impact the weather far away.  In some cases it can be beneficial, but in other cases it can be a serious problem.  The real problem is that we just have no idea what will happen in most cases.


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Updated: 03/26/2017, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 08/23/2015

Not that I know of. There are regulations as to what can be emitted, but I do no think weather modification is directly considered. Remember, politicians, not scientist, make laws, and they will do as they please even if misguided.

Veronica on 08/23/2015

May I ask does the USA government have a policy on pollution and its effect on the weather ?

I think smoking must have an effect on the weather.

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