Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Controlling the Weather?

We've all wanted it at some point in time or another; to control the weather. We want to make sure it doesn't rain on that big day, or just want it to pour so our crops will be fertile. Unfortunately it's not something that's been feasible. Or is it?

Researchers at the University in Geneva were the first to create rain clouds...from lasers. They shot several intense beams of infra-red light, each carrying several terawatts (the equivalent of a few billion light bulbs in a small amount of space) into a cloud chamber in their laboratory. The result...water started to form instantly inside, and not just small amounts that you could see with a microscope, but enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Eager to test their new findings, the scientists rolled their laser outside at night and shot it into the sky on clear nights. The laser formed small clouds in the sky, however; these clouds were too thin to be detected by eyesight alone and had to be detected by another, less powerful, laser.

So while this is a big accomplishment in the creation of weather, we are still a long ways away from actually doing something tangible with it. Don't count on being able to call up Switzerland and let them know that you have October 17 set as your wedding day and you need clear skies (it's actually good luck to rain on your wedding day, but more on that later). But every major innovation always starts with those first few steps.

Meteorologist Jason Disharoon


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