Climate change is not “a cover story” for a programme of deliberate weather modification and control, weather experts say, dismissing claims shared widely online. The experts told Reuters that intentional weather modification has limited and localised effects, while climate change is generally indirect and unintentional – and has an enormous impact on the planet.
Hundreds of social media users have reacted to a meme on Facebook and Instagram that claims “climate change is the cover story for weather modification and industrial pollution” (here and here).
Elaborating, one Instagram user writes: “The global geoengineering (chemtrail) program is done in part for serious weather modification and control and has been going on for decades. Though most of us alive today have perhaps known little truly ‘natural’ weather, what we are experiencing today is anything but natural.”
‘Chemtrails’ refers to a long-debunked conspiracy theory of which its adherents claim aircrafts are deliberately dousing citizens with toxic substances. Reuters has addressed this narrative on multiple occasions (see, here , here and here).
The Instagram user goes on to claim “geoengineered weather whiplash scenarios” of radical climate “swings” have become the norm.
“It is now common to have spring like temperatures one day and snow (likely artificially nucleated) the next… Or did you think lines in the sky were naturally occurring?”
However, the three experts told Reuters that deliberate weather modification does not have quite the level of impact that some social media users suggest.
“It is not remotely possible that our present-day intentional weather modification efforts are responsible for our inadvertent changes to climate through greenhouse gas emissions,” said Steven Siems, the co-chair of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Expert Team on Weather Modification, via email.
“Anyone proposing anything of the sorts is completely ignorant of the science of both climate change and weather modification.”
A spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) added: “The most common - really the only weather modification technique in widespread use - is cloud-seeding in an effort to amplify precipitation. The technology is fairly rudimentary, and the results are very localized.”
Cloud seeding helps with the formation of ice crystals and uses a small amount of a harmless and naturally occurring compound called silver iodide (Agl), which is released from an aircraft when a storm passes through specific seeding project areas.
“The idea here is to speed up the process of getting larger raindrops, thus enhancing precipitation,” said Siems.
Dr. Harold Brooks, a senior research scientist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, told Reuters: “There’s no strong evidence that, in general, it increases precipitation. There are a number of countries that use cloud seeding to reduce hail size, but the evidence it works is weak, at best.”
According to Brooks, there is “some evidence” of cloud seeding slightly increasing snowfall in mountainous areas, but that it’s unlikely that most people on Earth have experienced intentional weather modification.
“The Chinese apparently do something they think clears pollution, there are projects on the Arabian Peninsula intended to increase rain, and there’s a project in West Texas for that as well,” he said.
“It’s unlikely anyone has experienced human-modified weather given that we don’t have much evidence that it works.”
There is, however, “ample evidence” of indirect and unintentional weather modification from human activity, according to the NOAA.
“These range from 'ship-tracks' left in stratocumulus clouds, to empirical evidence of changing clouds and precipitation downwind of urban areas and industrial complexes. Acid rain is another example” (here).
Some experts therefore hope that weather modification might one day help to counter the effects of climate change.
“Some scientists believe that humans should combat climate change by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching Earth through one or more solar geoengineering techniques,” the NOAA added.
“Solar geoengineering would be aimed at modifying the climate, which would in turn affect global weather patterns. None of these techniques have been investigated thoroughly.”
False. The effects of intentional weather modification are rudimentary and localised. Climate change is not a “cover story” for this and has a huge impact on the planet.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
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