Military Science: Hack Stormy Skies to Lord over Lightning
The military’s scientific fringe has toyed with weather manipulation and geo-engineering for years. Recently, ideas like adding iron to the ocean, or covering the Arctic with dust, have been floated in a bid stave off global warming. But the Pentagon’s also got a long track record of plotting to screw with enemy climates and improve their own operational abilities.
Now, Darpa’s got a new target for geo-hacking science, and if they can make it work, we might see modern firearms making way for weapons of the mythological variety. The out-there research agency is soliciting proposals that would harness control over “the natural mechanism of lightning initiation” by coming up with a way to launch manmade lightning bolts, and prevent or redirect natural lightning strikes — and their accompanying destruction.
“Lightning causes more than $1B/year in direct damages to property in addition to the loss of lives, disruption of activities (for example, postponement of satellite launches) and their corresponding costs,” the solicitation notes. Until now, no one’s been too clear on how lightning is formed or how it travels, and the fact that most of the activity is going on inside thunderclouds doesn’t help. That’s why Darpa wants “rocket-triggered lightning” that can be shot off from the ground and then studied as it moves and touches down.
Once the natural mechanism of lightning formation and travel is understood, the agency wants a plan to predict lightning strikes — and then either stop the storms, or reroute them to a better strategic location.
And Americans everywhere should brace themselves for stormy skies, because Darpa wants the storm-brewing techniques to be tested nationwide:
The United States is home to thunderstorms of various type, duration, scale and intensity. This program would like to capitalize on the unique geographic features of various locations across the CONUS [Continental United States] that offer an increased likelihood of intercepting thunderstorms that exhibit unique characteristics.
[Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Lab]
Source has the awesome picture of their attempt to harness lightening.