Weather as a Force Multiplier:
Owning the Weather in 2025
In 2025, US aerospace forces can 'own the weather' by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies to war fighting applications.
Such a capability offers the war fighter tools to shape the battlespace in ways never before possible. It provides opportunities to impact operations across the full spectrum of conflict and is pertinent to all possible futures.The purpose of this paper is to outline a strategy for the use of a future weather modification system to achieve military objectives rather than to provide a detailed technical road map.
A high risk, high reward endeavor, weather modification offers a dilemma not unlike the splitting of the atom
While some segments of society will always be reluctant to examine controversial issues such as weather modification, the tremendous military capabilities that could result from this field are ignored at our own peril. From enhancing friendly operations or disrupting those of the enemy via small scale tailoring of natural weather patterns to complete dominance of global communications and counterspace control, weather modification offers the war fighter a wide range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary.
Some of the potential capabilities a weather modification system could provide to a war fighting commander in chief (CINC) are listed in table 1. Technology advancements in five major areas are necessary for an integrated weather modification capability:
- advanced nonlinear modeling techniques
- computational capability
- information gathering and transmission
- a global sensor array, and
- weather intervention techniques.
Some intervention tools exist today and others may be developed and refined in the future.
In this paper we show that appropriate application of weather modification can provide battlespace dominance to a degree never before imagined. In the future, such operations will enhance air and space superiority and provide new options for battlespace awareness.
What Do We Mean by "Weather-modification"?
Today, weather-modification is the alteration of weather phenomena over a limited area for a limited period of time.11 Within the next three decades, the concept of weather-modification could expand to include the ability to shape weather patterns by influencing their determining factors.12 Achieving such a highly accurate and reasonably precise weather-modification capability in the next 30 years will require overcoming some challenging but not insurmountable technological and legal hurdles.
Technologically, we must have a solid understanding of the variables that affect weather. We must be able to model the dynamics of their relationships, map the possible results of their interactions, measure their actual real-time values, and influence their values to achieve a desired outcome. Society will have to provide the resources and legal basis for a mature capability to develop. How could all of this happen? The following notional scenario postulates how weather-modification might become both technically feasible and socially desirable by 2025.
Between now and 2005, technological advances in meteorology and the demand for more precise weather information by global businesses will lead to the successful identification and parameterization of the major variables that affect weather.
Massive life and property losses associated with natural weather disasters become increasingly unacceptable
By 2015, advances in computational capability, modeling techniques, and atmospheric information tracking will produce a highly accurate and reliable weather prediction capability, validated against real-world weather. In the following decade, population densities put pressure on the worldwide availability and cost of food and usable water.
Massive life and property losses associated with natural weather disasters become increasingly unacceptable. These pressures prompt governments and/or other organizations who are able to capitalize on the technological advances of the previous 20 years to pursue a highly accurate and reasonably precise weather-modification capability.
The increasing urgency to realize the benefits of this capability stimulates laws and treaties, and some unilateral actions, making the risks required to validate and refine it acceptable.
By 2025, the world, or parts of it, are able to shape local weather patterns by influencing the factors that affect climate, precipitation, storms and their effects, fog, and near space. These highly accurate and reasonably precise civil applications of weather-modification technology have obvious military implications. This is particularly true for aerospace forces, for while weather may affect all mediums of operation, it operates in ours.
The term weather-modification may have negative connotations for many people, civilians and military members alike. It is thus important to define the scope to be considered in this paper so that potential critics or proponents of further research have a common basis for discussion.
In the broadest sense, weather-modification can be divided into two major categories: suppression and intensification of weather patterns. In extreme cases, it might involve the creation of completely new weather patterns, attenuation or control of severe storms, or even alteration of global climate on a far-reaching and/or long-lasting scale.
In the mildest and least controversial cases it may consist of inducing or suppressing precipitation, clouds, or fog for short times over a small-scale region. Other low-intensity applications might include the alteration and/or use of near space as a medium to enhance communications, disrupt active or passive sensing, or other purposes.
In conducting the research for this study, the broadest possible interpretation of weather-modification was initially embraced, so that the widest range of opportunities available for our military in 2025 were thoughtfully considered.
However, for several reasons described below, this paper focuses primarily on localized and short-term forms of weather-modification and how these could be incorporated into war-fighting capability.
The primary areas discussed include generation and dissipation of precipitation, clouds, and fog; modification of localized storm systems; and the use of the ionosphere and near space for space control and communications dominance. These applications are consistent with CJCSI 3810.01, "Meteorological and Oceanographic Operations."13
Extreme and controversial examples of weather modification-creation of made-to-order weather, large-scale climate modification, creation and/or control (or "steering") of severe storms, etc.-were researched as part of this study but receive only brief mention here because, in the authors' judgment, the technical obstacles preventing their application appear insurmountable within 30 years.
If this were not the case, such applications would have been included in this report as potential military options, despite their controversial and potentially malevolent nature and their inconsistency with standing UN agreements to which the US is a signatory.
On the other hand, the weather-modification applications proposed in this report range from technically proven to potentially feasible. They are similar, however, in that none are currently employed or envisioned for employment by our operational forces. They are also similar in their potential value for the war fighter of the future, as we hope to convey in the following chapters.
A notional integrated system that incorporates weather-modification tools will be described in the next chapter; how those tools might be applied are then discussed within the framework of the Concept of Operations in chapter 4.
"The technology is there, waiting for us to pull it all together."
"In 2025, we can Own the Weather."
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