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New chaos theory finding hints that humans could control the weather

New chaos theory finding hints that humans could control the weather
Could human beings control the weather through an understanding of chaos theory? (Getty)
Rob Waugh

Rob Waugh·Contributor - March 29, 2022

Human beings have become very good at predicting the weather - but despite various attempts, we still can’t control it.

But a new mathematical investigation using computer simulations hints that it might be possible to change that one day.

Lead researcher Takemasa Miyoshi of the RIKEN Center for Computational Science, who led the team, "This opens the path to research into the controllability of weather and could lead to weather control technology.

“If realized, this research could help us prevent and mitigate extreme windstorms, such as torrential rains and typhoons, whose risks are increasing with climate change."

The researchers used computer simulations and chaos theory, using a system known as a "butterfly attractor" in chaos theory, where a system can have one of two states - like the wings of a butterfly - and it switches back and forth between the two states depending on small changes in certain conditions.

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Running two weather simulations at once (one representing ‘nature’ and one where small variables had been changed), they discovered that small changes in several of the variables together could lead to the system being in a certain state once a certain amount of time elapsed.

The butterfly attractor was proposed by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorentz, one of the founders of modern chaos theory.

He subsequently described it as the ‘butterfly effect’ saying that the nonlinear equations that govern the weather mean that a butterfly flapping its wings could set off a tornado in Texas.

Takemasa Miyoshi says, "We have built a new theory and methodology for studying the controllability of weather.

"Based on the observing system simulation experiments used in previous predictability studies, we were able to design an experiment to investigate predictability based on the assumption that the true values (nature) cannot be changed, but rather that we can change the idea of what can be changed (the object to be controlled)."

"In this case, we used an ideal low-dimensional model to develop a new theory, and in the future, we plan to use actual weather models to study the possible controllability of weather."

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One controversial idea around weather control that is being seriously investigated is the idea of ‘solar geoengineering’ or solar radiation management (SRM) mimicking the world-chilling effects of huge volcanic eruptions.

Some scientists have suggested that such technology could be used as a ‘stopgap’ to reduce temperatures while measures to limit CO2 emissions are put in place.

But others have suggested that when the SRM was withdrawn, it could lead to rapid global warming in a phenomenon known as ‘termination shock’.

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One project investigating the idea involves billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates and top scientists from Harvard.

The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) will see carbonate dust released into the atmosphere.

The researchers suggest that jets would complete over 60,000 missions in 15 years, starting with a fleet of eight and moving up to 100 planes.

At present, there are no aircraft capable of doing this, so they would need to be developed.

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