weather warfare

Written by Muhammad Sajjad and Saba Kiran 12:12 pm Current Affairs, Published Content, Research Papers

Weather Warfare: Weapons of the Future

Amid climate concerns, states are now devising ways to change and control the weather. However, this initiative could tempt global powers into using weather to gain military advantage. Muhammad Sajjad and Saba Kiran review international frameworks and several studies to demonstrate how weather modification technology can be used in future wars.
About the Author(s)
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Mr Muhammad Sajjad is an MS graduate of the Department of Aerospace and Strategic Studies at Air University, Islamabad.

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Ms Saba Kiran is an MS graduate of the Department of Aerospace and Strategic Studies at Air University, Islamabad. She has a background in political science and takes an academic interest in ethnopolitical conflicts, national security, strategic stability, and social conflict analysis.



Since conflict is impacted by geopolitics, social, technological, financial, environmental, and military advancements, its future cannot be predicted. When we consider warfare, we’re often prepared for the most recent conflict, use archaic military metaphors, or focus on historically effective combat tactics that are now or soon will be obsolete. The picture of international security is fast changing (Dennis, 2008).

Modern weather manipulation (WM) was developed by Langmuir and Schaefer in 1948 (Schaefer, 1953) by utilising dry ice pellets to make holes in supercooled stratus via snow-out. This experiment provided compelling visual proof that seeding is beneficial, which encouraged more rain augmentation and hail avoidance initiatives all around the world.

In a 1961 address to the United Nations, President John F. Kennedy declared that he would be proposing additional joint efforts across all countries in weather prediction and ultimately weather management. This alone depicts the enthusiasm for humanity’s infinite anticipation to modify the weather (List, 2004). He envisioned a day when it would be possible to manipulate the weather, such as by pressing a button at two in the morning to bring on rain at five in the evening. He did not mention “weather manipulation,” as is to be noted.

Concept of Weather Warfare

Weather warfare is a kind of modern conflict in which the opposing nation is conquered economically, tactfully, and covertly while suffering the maximum amount of pain possible via the use of deliberate weather manipulation and geoengineering techniques. In this instance, bad weather makes it impossible for the adversary to engage in combat.

The most common kind of weather warfare is cloud seeding which may be employed to increase snowfall or rain. Weather manipulation may be used in battle because it can be used as a tactical weapon, a strategic weapon, or a covert way to harm an enemy state’s economy. In many ways, military weather modification technologies and weather control endeavours are similar.

The management of hurricanes and other severe storms, the elimination of warm and supercooled fog, the modification of cloud cover, the enhancement of precipitation (rain or snow), and the control of lightning have all been researched. The consequences of injecting pollutants into the atmosphere, coating ice with lampblack, releasing frozen carbon dioxide into the clouds to produce snowstorms, and ozone depletion have all been studied via experiments and computer models.

Experiments on Weather Modification

In an effort to alter the weather, Harvard University professor Emory Leon Chaffee fired charged sand from an airplane in 1924. In 1930, W. Veraart shot dry ice into the skies to change the weather. Only his book in the Dutch language contains the results of his investigation and the methodology he used. Henry G. Houghton, a professor at MIT, sprayed hygroscopic solutions into the fog in 1938 to clear it (Fleagle et al., 1974).

On November 13, 1946, a scientist named Dr. Vincent J. Schaefer and a pilot working for the General Electric Research Laboratory took off and flew 30 miles to the east of Schenectady, New York, at a height of 14,000 feet. The operation included pouring three pounds of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) into the clouds (Weiss, 1975a). When Dr. Schaefer looked back, he was overjoyed by the long snow streamers that were emerging from the foot of the cloud that they had just traversed. They had produced a fictitious snowstorm or blizzard.

After the General Electric Research Laboratory’s tests, it seemed possible for people to finally be able to manipulate the weather for military objectives. As tensions between the US and the Soviet Union increased, a hypothetical weapon that could be even more destructive than nuclear weapons is weather control (Fleagle et al., 1974).

Weather Warfare in Historical Context

The US President’s Advisory Committee on Weather Control was founded in August 1953. Its stated objective was to evaluate the level of government involvement and the effectiveness of weather-manipulation strategies. Colorful pigments are used to melt the polar ice caps, unleash catastrophic floods, and release enormous amounts of dust into the stratosphere to create precipitation as required. It makes reference to Operation Popeye, a plan to extend the monsoon season in Southeast Asia (Byers, 1974).

The Seward Peninsula in Alaska, United States, and the Chukchi Peninsula in the Russian Far East are divided by the Bering Channel. Arkady Borisovich Markin, a Russian engineer, also built a dam across the strait that was outfitted with several nuclear-powered pumps. The waters of the Pacific Ocean might theoretically diverge, causing big cities like New York and London to become hotter. Despite Markin’s claim that his goal was to “relieve the brutal cold of the northern hemisphere,” American experts were concerned that weather control may be used to trigger floods.

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In the middle of the 1950s, the media featured public debates on every theory created by American and Soviet scientists (Weiss, 1975a). The US military carried out Program Popeye, a highly classified operation, from 1967 until 1972. The objective was to lengthen Southeast Asia’s monsoon season. The Vietnamese army’s tactical logistics were badly hampered by the torrential rain.

During Operation Popeye, weather modification technology was successfully used for the first time in a military situation. When it was discovered, the Environmental Manipulation Convention (ENMOD) forbade its use in battle. An overview of weather modification technologies is given by Air Force Major Barry B. Coble in his March 1997 book “Benign Weather Modification.” He describes the changes that have taken place, especially at the hands of the CIA’s and Pentagon’s fiercest ideological adversaries.

In 1948, the meteorological community recognised the first initiative that was scientifically supervised and regulated as weather modification (Fleagle et al.,1974). Dr. Irving Langmuir’s early study on purposefully seeding clouds to generate rain yielded promising results that almost immediately sparked a lot of interest in the area.

A 1996 research paper conducted for the United States Air Force theorised the possible use of nanotechnology to create “artificial weather” clouds of minute computer particles interacting with one another to create an “intelligent fog.” An Air Force officer cadet presents weather modification technology as a force multiplier with remarkable potential that may be deployed in a number of post-war conditions in an unclassified academic study produced by students (Rodger, 2004).

International Laws on Weather Modification

Attempts to alter the weather and reflect solar heat have received less attention than climate change, which has lately taken centre stage on the global agenda, despite their potential to worsen regional conflicts. In an attempt to influence weather to their advantage or mitigate global warming, an increasing number of governments are utilising technology to manipulate atmospheric, oceanic, and ice conditions.

What may be advantageous for one country may not be advantageous for its neighbours since the impacts of these initiatives may cross national lines (Weiss, 1975b). Iran has previously claimed that Israel is taking its water by using cloud seeding to reduce rainfall over its area. China, which already manipulates the weather artificially over its main cities, intends to be able to do the same throughout half of its territory by 2025, frightening nearby countries like India.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two hostile nations in the Middle East, are ratcheting up their rain-making efforts (Dennis, 2008). Despite his commitment to environmental change, President Richard Nixon did not prioritise weather manipulation as a foreign policy issue in the years prior to the adoption of the weather modification accord. This was a period of unprecedented global cooperation on weather, despite Nixon’s apparent lack of interest in a global agreement to stop weather manipulation.

The World Weather Watch and the Global Atmospheric Research Program promoted collaboration in 135 nations by using new and improved technologies. These significant developments in the realm of weather would provide the groundwork for a conference on weather manipulation. The best weapon for enforcing such acts is a UN convention from the end of the Vietnam War. The ENMOD Convention became effective in 1978.

The Cold War superpowers hammered out the agreement after ethical concerns over Project Popeye, a covert cloud-seeding operation undertaken by the US Air Force from 1967 to 1972. It prolonged the monsoon season in Vietnam and Laos so that roadways would flood and obstruct Viet Cong combat operations. This indiscriminate technology may endanger or ruin civilian lives, local food production, and private property when used in combat (Byers, 1974).

A reassessment of ENMOD is essential considering how quickly the earth is warming. Signatories “shall not engage in military or any other hostile use of environmental modification technologies with wide, long-lasting or severe repercussions as the means of destruction, damage, or injury to any other State Party,” according to Article I of the agreement. Many weather and climate-changing technologies, without necessarily being ubiquitous, long-lasting, or severe, fit at least one of the three criteria (Darack, 2019).

Article II of ENMOD again casts a wide net, defining which environmental modification methods are included in the agreement. This would include all currently in use weather and climate modification technologies. It includes “any method for altering the dynamics, composition, or structure of the planet, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere, or of outer space, by the purposeful manipulation of natural processes.”

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The component of the convention that needs updating and clarification is the purpose question. The use of this technology for military or hostile objectives is specifically prohibited, and violations may be reported to the UN Security Council, but “peaceful motives” are allowed (Juda, 1984).

Implications of Weather Modification Techniques

Injecting aerosols into the stratosphere to boost precipitation or snowfall or alter a storm is the method that is most often utilised. Other methods include fertilising the ocean to boost carbon absorption, brightening clouds or ice to reflect more sunlight back into space, and therefore lessen local or global warming, etcetera (Stutzriem, 2021). Such initiatives are presently being carried out in more than 50 countries, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The Arctic Ice Project, a non-profit organisation, intends to disperse microscopic glass beads packed with silicon dioxide over regions of Arctic sea ice and in the Arctic Ocean to increase reflectivity and slow down climate change. Australian universities are experimenting with a salt spray that is sprayed over the Great Barrier Reef to reflect more of the sun’s heat in an attempt to preserve it.

However, it is challenging for scientists to understand both the immediate impacts of the technology and its reverberations. The potential detrimental effects of cloud brightening, a kind of solar radiation control, on ecological systems, agriculture, and global warming are unknown (Trausti, 2022). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that cloud brightening worsens regional weather patterns, endangers the ozone layer, and does nothing to slow down ocean acidification.

In order to considerably reduce global warming, cloud brightening would also need to endure wars, economic downturns, and technological glitches. Any protracted hiatus would hasten global warming (Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, 2021). There is ambiguity over the possible harmful impacts of cloud-seeding on neighbouring countries, some of whom are already struggling with problems with food or water security.

As the distribution, predictability, and amount of precipitation vary due to the changing climate, these problems will become more urgent for many people. The use of technology has three distinct security repercussions. The first is the possibility that its usage in one place may have an effect there. Second, it could be difficult to distinguish significant consequences from minor ones in neighbouring countries.

This leads us to our last point: the use of the technology may be rationalised as benign while covertly being utilised to hurt an adversary (Smith, 2006). There are questions about whether international law is the best way to regulate this technology in the context of climate change and national security as it is used by countries. ENMOD is the remedy.

Other UN environmental and climatic treaties and forums, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Environment Assembly, the IPCC, and the UN Biodiversity Convention, are essential for addressing various aspects of climate change. UN bodies including the UN Security Council, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the International Law Commission are also essential in addressing how security affects climate and vice versa (Darack, 2019).

To address the use of environmental technology as a weapon, none of these is essential. Only the ENMOD Convention has this power. The timing is also advantageous. According to ENMOD’s Article VIII, the UN Secretary-General must confer with signatories about the need of revising the agreement every 10 years. After the 2002 and 2013 review failures, the UN Secretary-General is expected to re-consult with the parties by no later than 2023.

If at least ten parties respond positively, the Secretary-General shall convene a review conference (List, 2004). Secretary-General António Guterres should use his position’s soft power to convince parties to support a complete reform of the treaty. He should encourage other countries to ratify the accord as more adopt technology that changes the environment. The treaty must also be updated to reflect a normal and contemporary understanding of “hostile” and “peaceful” purposes.

To tackle climate change, nations must reduce emissions and support climate adaptation. However, they must also consider how weather modification and geoengineering might impact security. Reactivating ENMOD should be done first (Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, 2021).

Weather Modification Technologies: A Contemporary Challenge

Many countries continue to perform many experiments and exercises to understand how to control the weather and use it in combat. As an example, the Russians have long used weather manipulation as a hail management strategy. China has also utilised cloud seeding to produce rain.

Conspiracy theorists assert that ideas like chemtrails, the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), geoengineering, and weather modification are not scientific endeavours or research projects, but rather cutting-edge military tools that could be used in weather warfare to eliminate an adversary (Weather Warfare: Weather Modification Technology in Warfare, 2021).

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Dr. Irving Langmuir, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, and Dr. Vincent J. Schaefer worked together on those initial tests for the General Electric Research Laboratory. Langmuir claimed that, under ideal conditions, the energy released by 30 milligrams of silver iodide is equivalent to one atomic bomb, and that “weather control or rainmaking may be as successful as the atomic bomb in combat.”

Langmuir stated that “the government should seize weather control phenomena in the same way that it seized atomic energy when Albert Einstein forewarned the late President Roosevelt in 1939 of the potential potency of an atom-splitting weapon.” A dangerous cloud formation was seen travelling toward Waco on a meteorological station’s radar in 1953, according to Captain Howard T. Orville, leader of the US President’s Advisory Committee on Meteorological Control.

The cloud’s morphology suggested a tornado may emerge. There were no adverse effects on persons or property from the storm’s breakup. Even while it may seem impossible to imagine a tornado being destroyed in its early stages right now, it is extremely possible that it might happen within the next 40 years. Research may reveal ways to not only scatter approaching storms and tornadoes but also drastically affect all of our weather in the age of the H-bomb and supersonic flight.

We could really be able to create the weather almost on demand if the science of weather management receives the funds for research that its relevance merits (Weather Warfare: Weather Modification Technology in Warfare, 2021). Beyond basic farming, building habitations, and a variety of other occupations, individuals may use technology to change their own environment. We call this technique “weather manipulation.” People engage in these extracurricular activities to alter social and environmental circumstances in order to further their own interests.


Although purposely altering the weather and using it in battle is a cruel approach. As Captain Orville puts it, “the repercussions might be more terrible than nuclear war” if an enemy nation is able to control significant weather patterns. It seems sensible that countries from all over the globe will attempt to perfect weather warfare as a consequence. Many conspiracy theorists think that because the US has mastered it, Russia and China are afraid of falling behind.

The weather is a natural system that develops and evolves as a result of the earth’s rotation, the moon, and changes in the water brought on by the sun. Any human involvement with this system might bring fatal results. The enemy country might be utterly destroyed as a result, rendering it incapable of ever recovering. Countries should assess the issue and take the appropriate steps to control weather warfare.


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