|Cloud control: Giant lasers fired into the sky could be used to create rainfall
Mail | August 31, 2011
Britons are notoriously obsessed with the weather, especially rainclouds.
Now, according to scientists, it seems they will soon be able to create their own washout conditions.
Using a powerful laser, researchers have created water droplets in the air.
The technique, called laser-assisted water condensation, could one day unlock the secrets of weather cycles and enable humans to decide where and when it rains.
While ‘cloud seeding’ has existed for some time it is not considered a safe way of creating rainclouds because it involves filling the atmosphere with small particles such as dry ice and silver iodide.
This means that while raindrops can form, chemicals are often spread far and wide and potentially damage the environment.
The new laser method is different because it uses natural humidity levels and atmospheric conditions to create water droplets.
Physicist Jerome Kasparian, of the University of Geneva, said: ‘The laser can run continuously, you can aim it well, and you don't disperse huge amounts of silver iodide in the atmosphere.
‘You can also turn the laser on and off at will, which makes it easier to assess whether it has any effect. When the Chinese launch silver iodide into the sky, it is very hard to know whether it would have rained anyway,’ he told the Guardian.
Researchers showcased the new technique on the banks of the Rhone near Lake Geneva after constructing the gigantic mobile laser.
Following 133 hours of firing a beam of intense laser light which created nitric acid particles in the air it resulted in binding the water molecules together to create droplets.
Although it didn’t form into actual rainfall, scientists remain positive they can soon manipulate weather conditions and even prevent showers.
‘Maybe one day this could be a way to attenuate the monsoon or reduce flooding in certain areas,’ Kasparian added.
The idea of changing and controlling the weather is not new. In 1946 Vincent Schaefer developed the idea of cloud seeding, which is still used today.
He experimented with dry ice and a deep freeze to create supercooled water crystals.
In China, the government operates the largest cloud seeding system in the world to create rain over arid regions and even the capital Beijing.