March 2, 2005

Nothing but the rain  

Baude mentions the Moscow mayor's penchant for weather modification, reminding me of this old post. As you can see, the practice isn't limited to local government; and Russia seems to be the world leader in cloud seeding, whether it's for fixing the weather or clearing the air. Of course, American scientists played with this stuff too, but they gave up after coming to this brilliant conclusion:

The United States and Russia began seeding clouds with silver iodide 50 years ago to increase local rainfall. The U.S. even used cloud seeding to flood the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam war. But the U.S. government quit trying to change the weather in the 1970s after scientists decided it couldn’t be done. "The problem is the weather changes you try and achieve by cloud seeding or other methods happen naturally all the time," says NOAA’s Hugh Willoughby, "And you can't know the difference."
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I could tell you the difference with some accurate experimental data and a copy of SPSS -- and clearly, the Russians have already done this. I'm not sure if it's good public policy or not, but the Russians seem to have come up with some useful applications... there's something so romantic (utopian?) about the magnificent scale and audacity of the totalitarian attitude toward science and technology.

Ted  {March 2, 2005}

Seems like intentional environment destruction to me to simply have nice weather. Under the Clean Water Act by the EPA, silver iodide is considered a hazardous substance, and as a toxic pollutant. And under Bush standards if it is considered toxic it must be nucular.

paul  {March 3, 2005}

A compelling chain of reasoning, to be sure. But seriously, the Russians are doing this with some success, and apparently with an eye to public safety and public value (they're not doing it every day). And meanwhile I haven't found anything anywhere to suggest that it's dangerous for the environment. I think there's a temptation to dimiss this kind of thing as monstrous because it goes against the natural order, whether from a scientific or a policy standpoint (ie because it's Russian) -- when actually it supports the public interest.

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