Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash.jpg

UK believed to be embracing large scale cloud seeding in last ditch attempt to slow climate impacts

We’ve known for well over a century that the climate is warming, and without intervention the temperature on the Earth’s surface will render it unlivable for humans. We’ve known too that we are causing the rise in warmth,  pulling fossil fuels out of the Earth and pumping them up into our atmosphere. Yet, despite this knowledge, we haven’t been able to change our actions. Perhaps this is because impacts always seemed so far away from what we’re doing in the moment. For those of us in the global North - with the money and the power and the opportunity - the changes were not of the present, they were of the future, and we are not good at being proactive, only reactive. So we waited, made small changes, and despite protests and pleas, many of us did nothing. 

 

Now we find ourselves here - in the future. Here, the crisis is not something we need to warn against, or to stave off, it’s something we have to manage. In the midst of the crisis we have put a cloud in the sky. We hope that the cloud will keep us cool. 

 

Particles in the air - whether they be ice crystals, gases from volcanic eruptions, or soot from large fires act to cool the Earth’s surface temperature. They block incoming solar rays, providing a reflective surface which helps keep the temperature cool, and send solar energy back into space. When there are particles in the air, clouds form, as these particles - dust or salt in the atmosphere - act as a seed around which water vapour can gather. This process of gathering, forming and dissipating, is happening constantly in the skies above us. 

 

It was during WW2 that we realised that the weather was not just something that happened around us, and to us, but that it was something we could have control over. Importantly, we realised that clouds can be seeded directly - that if we put particles into the atmosphere: we can cause clouds to form, create downpours and storms, cultivate snow or rain. In times of war, the ability to control weather is a powerful one, we can form a new weapon in the skies. Although this technique, known as ‘cloud seeding’, was developed in the 1950s, it has been used only a few times since: to clear storms for Beijing’s Olympics opening ceremony, to cultivate rainfall after months of drought. Now, cloud seeding and weather manipulation is our approach of choice. We are not dealing with a cause, but treating a symptom. We’ve made a large-scale intervention in our weather - it's a last ditch attempt to calm the skies above us. 

 

The UK government has declined to comment on the matter, and will neither confirm nor deny whether cloud seeding at scale is part of their ongoing climate strategy. A source close to the PM has confirmed that she is taking weather manipulation very seriously. As the cloud is a relatively new phenomenon, we can’t yet tell whether the approach has had any success, whether it has changed our weather at all. 

 

What we do know is that this cloud is unlike any we have seen before. This may be deliberate: a new cloud to meet our new global temperature, or the unique nature of this cloud may be unintended. This cloud behaves in ways that we are not used to, we don’t understand it now, and we probably won’t understand what it will become. We just have hope that it will save us - cool us and calm us. And now, in this heat, hope is all we have left.