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Jan 04, 2005
How's the Weather?

Meteorologists with computer models know a lot more about the weather than ever before. Computer models calculate the interplay of a large number of variables to produce likely weather scenarios for several days. Meteorologists then decide which scenario is most likely. More often than not they're right. But the times they miss could be because they are leaving out an important factor.

Like most sciences, meteorology still considers the Earth to be an isolated body in space. It is not. It is a charged body moving through an active plasma environment, surrounded by a web of electric currents commonly called the magnetosphere. Earth's surface and atmosphere are electrically connected through this magnetosphere to electrical conditions in space and on the Sun. Astronomers Sallie Baliunas and Willy Soon have shown that for as long as temperature records have been kept, the global temperatures of the Earth have correlated to the sunspot cycle. And the sunspot cycle also affects radio transmission and power grids.

The Electric Universe identifies more effects: Currents to the surface affect the jet streams, moving them closer to the equator when solar activity causes geomagnetic storms. These currents power thunderstorms, waterspouts and hurricanes. The image above is hurricane Frances in 2004. Its form is that of a plasma spiral, mimicking on a small scale the shape of a spiral galaxy and on a large scale the shape of interacting Birkeland currents in the laboratory.

If we learn more about the plasma factors, we should be able to predict the weather better, and maybe learn how to control it, too. Already experiments are underway pumping ionized gases into the atmosphere to increase rainfall in the desert. Summing up all its tests from 2000 to 2002, two of the companies testing these techniques claim that ionization led to about double the average historical precipitation -- stimulating, among other things, a 61 percent increase in bean production in Mexico's central basin in the last three years.

How will this new knowledge be used? Michael Crichton's latest novel, State of Fear, presents a world where weather control (enhanced thunderstorms, flash floods and controlled lightning) is used as a weapon in an environmental war.

But the flip side of Crichton's tale is much brighter. Imagine the next "hurricane Frances" tamed. Its fury could be softened and split. Part could follow the usual pathway up the hurricane corridor as gentle rain and the other part could be diverted to the Sahara. North Africa could become a major producer of grains and fruits and vegetables; its coastline a Mediterranean holiday paradise.

Taking into account the plasma factors involved in the weather could be the key to finally learning how to do something about it.

Link to :

David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Michael Armstrong

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