Connecticut State University.
Faculty of the History Department in Candidacy
for the Degree of Master of Arts...
The essay covers time period from end World War Two until sign of treaty Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental modification Techniques.
The change would occur in the society over such time in the United States.
The use of weather modification during the Second Indochina War would cause a series of events to unfold to cause change in world thinking about environmental change.
Therefore this paper
traces the change that occurred over this time period.
There several different consequences when a major environmental event makes an impact on human history. These events have a type of impact so rare and so major as to alter everyday life and cause humans to change their behavior.
Some of these types of events are drought, flood, tropical cyclones, and snowstorms. The impacts of these types of event are dependent on different factors, such as how humans prepare for such events.
Weather modification could have constructive applications, and showed much promise. It could be applied for preventing crop failures and stopping floods and other negative weather effects. Yet despite these positive effects, these new techniques also caused debate over whether changing the weather was a form of playing God and altering unnaturally the human population.
experiments in weather modification in the United States between
1946 and 1974 showed that it could be a useful element of military
strategy, development assistance, and private corporate profit,
weather modification was ultimately abandoned because the legal and
ethical issues raised by modification practices outweighed the
Weather modification seeks to alleviate extreme weather events to limit human suffering. Two useful examples of the need to alleviate natural but unusual weather events can be seen through examining the "dust bowl" event in the American Midwest in the 1930s and rare New England hurricanes.
Despite the significance of the weather on these events, however, historians tend to focus only on the aftermath of these weather events, not on the weather itself.1
Clouds of dust needed to
traverse over 2000 miles for political action to be taken.
If the storm had hit the United States lower latitudes, it would not have been as bad because of the soil make-up in the Mid-Atlantic States or southern east coast of North America. Since the New England states have glacier till soil, a smaller hurricane causes a great deal of flooding and destruction in New England. These aforementioned examples show how the weather events can have a major impact on human life.3
Controlling the weather would be appealing because it would eliminate the uncertainty involved in the obvious inability to precisely predict weather events. Having such control over the environment would be very temping.
Radar's well-known military application was to detect aircrafts in flight; however, in a meteorology application it could also be used to detect water condensation in different forms and density. These advancements in the field of meteorology will be a main discussion point in this thesis, with particular attention paid to weather modification and its effect on regional weather patterns.
The paper will not discuss nonintentional acts of weather modification. An example of a nonintentional act to modify the weather would be what in common parlance is called "global warming"; that is, the human-caused increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, which has contributed to a shift in global temperatures.
Our focus will be, in particular, on such techniques of willful weather modification such as cloud seeding, in which the weather modification has significant effects, and can even be used as a weapon of war. We will spend less time considering other methods of weather modification such fog dispersion, the effort to use techniques to control visibility for airplanes through clearing low clouds and fog.
The limited space and time for this thesis will require us to focus on those aspects of weather modification with the greatest potential impact on human lives.
The vocabulary is also unique to the field, but every effort will be used to explain key terms when necessary, or technical terms will be replaced with other common-use terms that are more accessible to the public.
The production of rain also requires collision, which occurs in part at random and by chance.4
The physics of how raindrops grow is key for understanding how weather modification programs work.
There are several different theories and models about water droplet and ice crystal growth in clouds.
The programs to be discussed in this thesis will involve both warm clouds and cold clouds. Any processes caused by humans that affect this process of cloud growth will be considered intentional and defined as weather modification for the purposes of this thesis.
An example of these variable weather conditions can be seen by the fact that the state of Arizona experiences a monsoon season, a tropical event involving warm clouds. Yet this very same state also experiences snowstorms from very cold clouds.
This program does not require citizens to participate in program, but rather supplies data freely to field meteorologists who can use this data as they see fit.5
The government had accumulated over fifty years of data on weather by 1946, when the first experiment in weather modification occurred in the United States.
If the government could control the weather, it would be more powerful than any military force because weather control meant the ability to create famine through crop failures, devastation through drought and floods, and the ability to destroy infrastructure, among other effects.
Ultimately, people could not accept the changes that would cause by weather modification, especially in the volatile political climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Rather than studying every instance of the application of weather modification, this thesis will examine key turning points in both military and civilian weather modification operations.
It will utilize sources from government publications about weather modification, as well as key pieces of investigative journalism from the 1960s and 1970s, as the press exposed to public previously secret military programs using weather modification technology. The significance of the order of events in these cases necessitates a chronological approach.
Therefore, while this thesis focuses on United States weather modification operations, to give a more complete account of history of weather modification during this time period, a global approach becomes necessary.
This thesis will thus
examine weather modification at different places as building blocks
to be used in piecing together how each piece of information forms a
picture and a coherent story of weather modification.
During this time, scientists experimented with methods of cloud seeding. Both in the private and public sectors, such experiments with weather modification began shortly after the conclusion of World War Two.
The weather modification experiments at the time required both military and civilian operations, and each had different aspects. The motives for these weather modifications in each operation were different, for the intended outcomes were dependent on the group of people who was carrying out the operation to modify the weather.
Understanding the motives of these respective groups by an examination of their goals for those operations is crucial.
In the nineteenth century, the increase of population during the western migrations of the US population to these areas had taxed the natural water supplies.
An example of this concern about water shortage were the reservoirs built to supply water for arid regions of California and Western areas of the U.S. as the population grew in those regions.6
The O'Shaughnessy Dam was built to supply the city of San Francisco, California with a stable water supply after that city's devastating earthquake in 1906. There were other projects that took place under the New Deal programs, such as the Hoover Dam for the city of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Schaefer himself became known for copying a snowflake in 1940 using a thin plastic coating called Formvar.7 Then, in the early 1940s, he began work with precipitation static, ice nuclei, and cloud physics.8
By 1946, he was able to use dry ice as an agent to modify clouds by causing ice crystals to form in super cool clouds,9 which in turn caused a cloud to precipitate.10
Modification of clouds
could be carried out to force clouds to precipitate prematurely, by
the use of dry ice. Schaefer's experiment was sponsored by the
General Electric Corporation.11
This result gave pause to General Electric about continuing these experiments, because of the very real the legal implications:
Therefore, before General Electric could conduct any further experiment in weather modification, a solution was needed to continue their experiments while simultaneously reducing the liability they would incur from such experiments.
The solution was found by General Electric through a contract with the Army Signal Corps that they obtained in March 1947.14
The Army agreed to this joint venture in part because of their close connections to General Electric researchers at the time. The civilian meteorologists in the Signal Corps engineering laboratories were themselves former General Electric employees.15
Project Cirrus also involved the US Weather Bureau and eventually expanded its scope of operations from New Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean basin off the coast of Florida.
In part, this geographic range reflected one of Project Cirrus's main goals: attempting to modify hurricanes.18 The first priority was to modify the course or track of a hurricane as it made landfall. Yet this would merely result in hurricanes devastating a different area.
Therefore, even the government was forced to stop such hurricane experimentation because the unintended consequences and potential liability were simply too great.19
The Air Force, by the commitment of the aforementioned supplies, became inextricably involved in Project Cirrus as well. However, the Air Force's involvement in the project is somewhat limited because of the small size of the force in 1950.
The Air Force chose to not fully dedicate the supply above to the project, but rather to station them near central operations and make them available on short notice.21
The cautious position taken by the Air Force in limiting their participation is somewhat perplexing, considering that the Air Force was a pioneer in weather modification. It had begun the process of cloud seeding in April 1948. The area targeted for cloud seeding by the Air Force at that time was a region of Japan that was then experiencing a drought.22
The issues that arose from the lack of water were so acute that water had to be flown in from Tokyo. The water in this region was rationed, so that for several weeks, people could only access water for two hours per day.23 The outcome of the Air Force attempts to cloud seed in this case are unclear.
What was reported back was only a recommendation that cloud seeding be further researched.24 However, an internal memo shows that Air Force planes could be used for the cloud seeding operation, and that therefore means had to be found for cloud seeding, such as artillery.25 This process would use artillery shells to spread the chemical agents to generate the cloud.
These lessons were brought to bear during Army experiments in Japanese cloud seeding in 1950 that followed the Air Force operations in Japan.
The Army was aware of the legal liability it may incur during such operation, example of this legal liability consideration effect of such operation on neighboring countries such as Korea.
This was particularly important to the United States Military at the time, since 1950 was the year that commenced the Korean War. The army reached the conclusion of cloud seeding operation in Japan in 1948 would have no policy impact on Korea.26
This was important, as the United States did not want to add atmospheric uncertainty to the already volatile situation on the Korean peninsula. In any case, for whatever reason, by 1950 the Air Force seems to have been backing away from taking the lead on seeding operations to modify the weather.
This position may be related to other events at the time.
The Weather Bureau was also more focused on the modification of the energy of storms.29
Their position resulted from the way storms are thought about in community of atmospheric scientists, as agents for the transfer of energy. This concept is similar to that of heat mechanics, in which heat is understood as a mechanism to transfer areas of energy from high amounts to an area of low amounts of energy.
This paper was placed into a military file about cloud seeding operations.31 These experiments were covered in newspapers in the area and the US Army Signal Corps did compile a file on the experiments conducted there.32 With these experiments and others, the military knew by early 1948 that cloud seeding could be successful and had major implications.33
After World War II, the Army, along with the Air Force, had operations in Japan to increase the water supply by inducing rainfall. The introduction of ideas of how to induce rain occurred near the same time of Project Cirrus was being conducted.
By late 1940s the military was intensely interested in weather modification by the method of cloud seeding, and this interest seems to be tied to the potential profitability of the technique for private sector corporations such as General Electric, which brought the idea of weather modification to the military as a means to reduce their legal liability.
The Army conducted experiments in weather modification with other armed services beginning in October 1948 under Project Cirrus.34
As established above, the army had a pressing motivation for this research: the lack of drinkable water in Japan right after the war.35
The Army was basically administering Japan after the war. If the population did not have water to drink, it might have led resistance among the civilian population of Japan to the postwar occupation.
The evidence of this concern is seen in correspondence written back and forth between officers stationed in Japan and the mainland about different ways to try to induce rain over Japan.36 The Army went as far as to consider the implications of this action for the volatile Korean conflict if they were able to successfully cause rain to occur.
Despite Air Force
caution, the interest in expanding both the civilian and military
uses of weather modification in the 1950s led to its widespread use
both in development assistance and as a weapon of war for more than
As mentioned above, there were advances in radar, but that was not the only advancement to come out of the postwar era that would impact the field of meteorology.
The most important advancement was in computer technology. The computer would allow for faster computation equations and the processing of larger amounts of data and would grow to be crucial in the field of meteorology.
The State Department had a clear motivation to move into the field. The military's use of cloud seeding to address a water shortage in Japan showed that weather modification could be used as a form of development assistance throughout the world.
The State Department could create situation where it would have godlike power over counties by offering promise of rain.
As part of that agreement, the United States was to train citizens of Israel in the techniques of weather modification.41 If the Israelis were able to master weather modification, they would be able to deprive other populations of water by redirecting the rain.
The knowledge that was being gained by Israel could be also applied to other fields, especially fuel research.
Although the U.S. Army thought weather modification was viable and could be used, not all agencies or other government believed that weather modification could be carried out consistently or successfully.
The operation in Israel did have some issues when it came to funds to run the project, and because of this, by December 1, 1954, about a year after the agreement between the two governments was signed, the project fell into trouble over a lack of updates on progress.43
They drew on approximately seven years of information from weather modification experiments that had been conducted. In State Department correspondence, officials calculated the estimated cost-benefit ratios went as high as 300 to 1 for the use of silver iodine to generate clouds.47
The reasoning behind such estimates is that water is very important part of life on Earth. Water is so important to life on Earth that it could not exist in any way without it. So cloud seeding to increase water in dry areas would have a huge impact for the region.
Depending on whether the clouds were warm clouds or super cool clouds, they would cause silver iodine to be ineffective; the iodine technique was only effective if super cool clouds were present.50
This corporation was mentioned before in the State Department letter discussing possible corporations that would have expertise in weather modification overseas.52
continue to suggest private/public partnerships in weather
They suggest the possibility of increased precipitation in target area from 10 to 50 percent.54 These figures seem to be a bit high compared to some of the early examples mention in this report, in which it was estimated that increase were only as great as .01 inches of rain increase.
However, there are examples where weather modification events led to massive amounts of precipitation being released, as in the case of General Electric's causing of massive accidental snowfall in upstate New York with their early experiment in 1947.
This relationship in this field grew after the late 1940's. The legal implications of weather modification forced this cooperation between the public and private sectors. The military assistance in this relationship was used to provide the legal cover that was needed for weather modification, and the WRDC Company took full advantage of this relationship.
The State Department was
also assisting in the relationship by providing a place outside the
United States to conduct these operations.
Therefore, by the middle of the 1960's the relationships between these companies and government were strong. The moral implications of weather modifications were considered both by the government and by corporate entities, but not always fully.
This lack of
consideration would lead to a decision to use weather modification
not only as a diplomatic means to assist people, but as a military
means to destroy them.
It was primarily aimed at increasing the amount of rainfall over Vietnam from monsoons and other tropical weather systems, such as tropical storms.
The United States' military forces would gain tactical advantages from such operations. One of these advantages would be control over where rainfall came from, at what time it came, and how much rainfall ensued. I will not argue the merits of such weather modification activities.
Rather, I will contend that during the timeframe of escalating United States intervention in Southeast Asia (1965-1973), the United States military came to the conclusion that while weather modification can be effective in certain circumstances, its impact was hard to quantify.56
These operations thus coincided with the Johnson administration's escalation of direct American involvement in Vietnam, which had begun in earnest in 1965. Operation Popeye was conceived in secrecy due to the politically sensitive status of weather modification at the time. The operation was therefore to be carried out under the guise of reconnaissance. 57
By the mid-1960s, it was also known to have a negative (and unpredictable) effect on civilians' food and water supplies.58
The economic impacts could also be positive in one area but negative in another. Whether the economic, cultural, or climactic impacts of weather modification were seen as positive or negative depended on the point of view of the observer.
This statement should be taken in its most literal sense, because depending on where an observer was located, increased cloud cover or precipitation could be good or bad.
Drought over the Ho Chi Minh trail, for example, might fit the military objectives of the United States, but an ensuing drought in South Vietnam might not.
This is the reason this
operation need to carried out in secrecy, because the political
fallout from robbing other people (such as Cambodians and Laos) of
rain to increase rain over Vietnam for military reasons would be
Therefore, based on these positive results, Operation Popeye went ahead as planned.
The second major objective was to dissipate or suppress clouds or rain fall in areas example of the targets were clouds that prevented because suspicions, air support, attacks where visual notification was necessary, mobile air defense missiles and other transient targets.59
A key aspect of weather modification efforts is that they were done usually on a mesoscale, or as part of weather system, such within groups of clouds that would create a single mesoscale weather event. However, what the Air Force was doing in Operation Popeye was something much larger in scale than just a single mesoscale weather event.
It tied many mesoscale modifications of weather into larger weather events that could be mesoscale weather events.
The Air Force targeted two different monsoons over Vietnam:
These two Monsoons would be consider synoptic scale weather events.
Also these monsoons also run year-round functionally, and therefore, cloud seeding operations could be conducted all year round. The northeast monsoon runs from October through mid-April and the southwest monsoon runs from mid-May to mid-October. 60
The NSF urged scientists to study the extent to which people relied on forecasts.
This question was significant; if no one relied on weather forecasting, then weather modification might be seen as more innocuous, since, first, it was less likely that enemies in war would rely on such data to make business decisions, and second, it was less likely that they would actually be aware that such modifications were taking place at all.
In 1967, the National Center for Atmospheric Research also took on the task of examining the impact of human manipulation of the atmosphere. One of the findings of the report was that a solution on air pollution must be found before it became a cause of conflict.62
This report then sidesteps the issue of whether using weather modification techniques as a tool to improve agriculture or for other purposes might have harmful unintended consequences. As mentioned in the earlier example in this thesis about the unintended increase of snowfall in New York State in 1948, private property landowners were already in fear of disaster if weather modification experiments continued.
This example can be extended to apply to this later point, as people might be interested in keeping nonmodified weather systems for these reasons, and they would thus want to avoid intentional acts of modifying the weather.
If the Air Force could create a situation in which the enemy were forced to take some predictable action in response to unpredictable weather, this would operate as an aid to their military strategy.
The importance of control over terrain and atmosphere on the battlefield was highlighted by US experiences in Operations Steel Tiger and Tiger Hound in 1965, the year prior to the inception of Operation Popeye.
The Air Force documents that reported this observation saw the value the weather could play in conjunction with conventional military tactics such as bombings.
For example, defoliation missions that relied on dropping napalm on forests would be more effective in conjunction with reducing the chance of rain from cloud cover.
A reduction in rainfall would allow fire to spread and burn more of the land.64 Such a reduction in rainfall would also force local populations, who were presumed to be sympathetic to NVA and NLF elements, into an agonizing choice about how to use their water supplies. Local villages could either choose to fight the fires or to keep sufficient water for other uses such as drinking.
This would change, however on July 2, 1972, when a New York Times report by Seymour Hersh claimed that the first attempt at weather modification occurred in South Vietnam as early as 1963.65 That the Air Force had considered this tactic as early as this time period fits in the timeline of implementing it by 1967, when Operation Popeye formally began.
Hersh's article now showed how key members of the State Department opposed weather modification being turned into a weapon of war. 66
In a sense, Operation Popeye was part of the case, as it appears in the Fourth Volume of the Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers, which was released in 1971.67
Although Operation Popeye was classified, the materials in the Pentagon Papers were also classified; this was the major issue at stake in the case.
The fact that the Pentagon Papers were made public clearly helped Hersh in his reporting. Hersh explains that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) first used weather modification when the Diem Regime was facing protests from the Buddhists in the summer of 1963; apparently the regime, with cooperation from the CIA, seeded clouds and created storms to disperse protesting monks.
This tactic seemed to work, causing over seven inches of rain to fall on protests on two separate occasions.68
However, Hersh leaves out another objective, that of assisting the defoliation mission of the Air Force, out of his report entirely, which is curious, because it was just as important to the operation. This part of the operation, of course, had considerable moral implications.
This chemical had the benefit of causing acid rain. The effect of acid rain is well known in current times, but back during this time period, as was mentioned before, it was not seen as a significant problem. This acid rain had high pH content. It was thus highly acidic, and was meant to react with the metal in artillery and military equipment to cause it to fail.70
By extension, if the pH was high enough to cause a chemical reaction with metal, then the rain would also be acidic enough to change the pH of the soil and water. This change would have had an extremely detrimental effect on plants, animals and humans. It must have led to the loss of crops, livestock and fish.
The uncertainties with this sort of very volatile approach to weather modification are considerable, and it might have led, with prolonged use, to the collapse of the entire Indochinese ecosystem. Perhaps most resistance to weather modification might stem from opposition to these kinds of tactics.
Along with the environmental dangers and ecological consequences that can occur from weather modification, Hersh was also concerned with secrecy within the State Department concerning it.71
An incident prior to operation Popeye becoming active with State Department prior the Vietnam War was using weather modification as a means of giving aid to countries that need increase in water supply.
The most recent one relevant to the region was India. President Johnson had also used his State Department to conduct weather modification over India in 1965, because the rainfall had been short that year as the monsoons did not provide the rain that it would normally provide the region.72
Senator Claiborne Pell, reacting to the revelations about its use in Southeast Asia, commented that,
As a resident of Newport,
Rhode Island, Senator Pell lived in an area which could be easily
affected by weather modification, and he held hearings about such
activities in the Senate's subcommittee on Oceans and International
The public began to understand the prevalence of weather modification operations at the international level. The nation was in the midst of the Cold War.
Not only that, but it was a time of great antiwar fervor, which was just cooling down as key members of the antiwar movement were getting elected to Congress. Now with the reports coming out in newspapers, Senator Pell called for an investigative hearing. Weather as weapon of war would change.
This change would also have impact on the civilian use of the technology.
This resolution passed
the Senate by a vote of 82 to 10.75 After a year-long discussion,
however, proponents could not pressure the executive branch to take
a firm position on the issue.76
The resolution also called for the treaty to be signed in Geneva, a neutral party place and be open for all nations in the world would be eligible to sign the treaty. The State Department took a noncommittal position on Senate Resolution 71.
In the hearing conducted on January 25, 1974, Mr. Herman Pollock, the Director of the International Scientific and Technological Affairs Bureau, was forced to respond to questioning from Senator Pell, but his responses demonstrate this lack of commitment on the part of the administration is the excessive number of times that he reported that the administration was "studying" the issue.78
When he was questioned by Senator Pell about whether the operation had any influence on the executive branch's position on the ban, his answer was:
Again, the State Department witness in this hearing was trying to evade the question.
The first one was that weather modification could be used as a tool to give water to countries that needed to increase their water supply. The second was that it might be diplomatically useful to deny water to states as a negotiating tactic.
Also, part the reason for the State Department acting in this manner that is under the realpolitik leadership of Henry Kissinger the State Department was often willing to have a two-faced approach to these issues for strategic reasons. In the face Senate Resolution 71 and the hearing in 1973, the State Department was attempting to play down the importance of weather modification efforts, a tactic made clearer in 1974 by State Department unwillingness to make getting information to Senator Pell a priority.80
Since these water sources were used both for hydroelectric purposes and for drinking water sources, a shortage might mean power outages, a shortage of available drinking water, or both.
One controversial aspect of a weather modification ban was whether such a ban might make such civilian purposes of weather modification either difficult or illegal to carry out.
Sanctions were necessary to alleviate the potential suffering of a country that had suffered the consequences of these modifications. Hence the moral arguments that countries should only use weather modification for good and help other countries but not harm them.
Forman's repeat answer to nearly every question was that he did not "have enough knowledge" to determine the effects or consequences of such a treaty or of the effectiveness or consequences of weather modification.82
However, the 1967 section of the Pentagon Papers clearly indicates that by that time, the military knew of both the effective and destructive powers of weather modification.83 The only question that might remain was the degree to which they knew about the long-term impact of these weapons.
There is a considerable and definable difference between fog dispersion and cloud seeding. To be able to clear a foggy area in order to see more clearly in a time before Global Positional System (GPS) technology would have been very important for civilian and military aircraft that were trying to land or take off; whereas the cloud seeding weather modification is aimed at changing the rainfall over an entire area. 84
The Defense Department tryied to walk very fine line to keep every tool it can, which is understandable considering their function.
In pressing this inconsistency, they invoked the idea that allowing unchecked civilian use of weather modification without military oversight might be a danger to the whole ecological system.
The example he gave was that if a country such as Canada want to meddle with the polar ice caps to make for more viable farm land, this would massively increase sea levels - an unpleasant thing for Rhode Island, Senator Pell's home state.85
This is obviously a kind of tactic of distraction; the Defense Department focusing on unlikely civilian scenarios to attempt to carve as many exceptions into what they saw as an nearly inevitable treaty as possible.
A nuclear reaction can be used inside a weapon to create a massive explosion, or can be done under controlled conditions to generate heat and create electric power for everyday use. Weather modification should be regarded as analogous to nuclear power.
He glad to see that the Defense Department, bowing to practicality, was limiting its opposition to the treaty.
He cites one example from the Philippines in which a US-based cloud seeding operation saved crops, preventing an expenditure of more than $25 million in food aid.91 The picture he is describing shows how weather modification can be used for good, and that some of that benefit is inextricably tied to military uses.
The main reason he gives for not having a treaty is that,
This means that to have any weapon would cause act a war including even the peaceful uses of weather modification. His argument does have merit in that weather modification cannot be employed without affecting other weather patterns.
This means that it is unclear where civilian weather modification ends and a military use begins.
The problem with too much rainfall is that it can cause flooding and landslides, which can be just as effective and devastating as burning somebody out with napalm and killing them because they could be killed easily enough in those natural disasters. Ultimately, no matter what, killing people can be brutal, and all of these tactics are trying to kill people.
The three recommendations that he made are:
What we see here is the Navy, through this private citizen, suggesting a limited treaty which would ban some aspects of geophysical warfare but not all of them, and which would allow for fog dispersion and other such operations which are necessary for safety of the troops.
MacDonald emphasized the importance of having the USSR on board with the treaty.95 Having the USSR and the United States both as signatories of the treaty would provide the treaty with great importance and would also allow other countries to sign the treaty.
MacDonald did not believe that the reason to enter such a treaty stemmed from any prior abuses. The reason according to him to seek a universal ban on these types was two-fold. The first reason was that not all effect of weather modification could be predictable. The second was that there was little to no ability to target weather modification.
It was impossible to restrict a weather modification operation in order to just affect a military target. Civilians would also inevitably be affected by these operations too.96 Moreover, because the effects of weather modification did not simply stop at national boundaries, the United States use of these techniques could negatively affect their relations with other countries.
This would create chaos and disruption for forecasts because no computer models would be able to be initialized for forecasting purposes.
Once again this type of weapon would affect not only military targets, but the civilian population as well.99
MacDonald also pointed out that chemicals could be put in the atmosphere to alter the nature of ultraviolet light.
Again this weapon would not only potentially kill humans but also the environment, because it would be harmful to plants and animals. 100 Each of MacDonald's examples became progressively more deadly with each example he brought up in the hearing.
One of the main points of his testimony was that there was a vision within the executive branch of what atmospheric or weather modification could do, and that these were being juxtaposed with the more abstracted negative consequences that were being highlighted in this particular Senate hearing that was being conducted.101
The nightmare had been shown throughout this hearing. Senator Pell, it seemed to Malone, was interested painting a very negative picture of weather modification that would overwhelm the potential benefits that weather modification could have for the country, such as reducing droughts and creating a stable water supply.
He believed that the secrecy surrounding the Southeast Asia operation was a symptom of trying to keep the claims about the effects of the program being exaggerated.102 The shroud of secrecy surrounding Southeast Asian cloud seeding increased because it became tangled with national security issues, which supercharged the necessity to exaggerate successes.103 Mr. Malone would be the last witness during this particular Senate hearing.
Doolin was not alone in his giving the testimony. He was also accompanied by the representative of the Air Force, Major General Ray Furlong, and a Deputy Secretary of Defense as well as William Chaplin from the State Department Bureau of International Scientific and Technological Affairs, along with several other witnesses.104
This is the first time in the sources that I have consulted that lead iodine has been mentioned. The use of lead iodine is another indication that the United States military had no regard for the environment, and that its single-minded priority was to take actions that would serve its purposes in winning a battle.
They would be willing to destroy the environment as long as it corresponded with military objectives, such as making roads impossible to traverse during the rainy season and extending the rainy season to continue that scenario. Another aspect to the goals of the mission was to wash out river crossings for the enemy.106 What these operation goals show is the willingness of the military to carry out such an operation.
Causing a situation to see the damage being inflicted is worth the cost of an operation better spent on another operation. The annual cost for program was 3.6 million dollars, not so great when compared to other costs of the wartime operation.107 The area of operation was expanded from the aforementioned Operation Popeye and were not limited to those over the skies of Vietnam.
By early 1967, cloud seeding operations were being conducted over Laos. The war has spilled over in Laos before with operations such as Operation Barrel Roll and Operations Steel Tiger and Tiger Hound.
To see the weather modification be expanded in to Laos and Cambodia is not surprising, but from the perspective of most of these witnesses, it supported the need for an international treaty on weather modification, for which the hearing was being held.
The pernicious effects of lead were just becoming known at that time, leading to a debate domestically about the common practice of using lead as an additive to gasoline in America. However, certainly if anyone would be aware of the harmful effects of lead, it would be environmental engineers working for the United States military.
Furthermore, the combined affects cloud modification with the concentration of pollution from other sources on land during the Indochina wars has to be taken into consideration.
An example of this land effect on rainfall is that the difference between the Red River at flood stage and at a normal stage is only nine meters.109 This means such operation would affect the operation of flood controls or the dam system in Southeast Asia. Another aspect to consider is that military would bomb dams and bridges from the air, just like in any other war, so that the effect of cloud seeding had to be considered in conjunction with these techniques of conventional warfare.
This idea was first grasped to the extent that weather modification operations originally restricted to Vietnam expanded into Cambodia and Laos and undoubtedly affected neighboring nations such as Thailand, China, and Burma as well. The need for regulation of such dangerous multinational environmental concerns was not beyond the comprehension of leaders within the United States.
The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 was in part recognition that the actions of one state could affect another, and that the environmental decision-making in the United States would not only affect neighboring countries but also the world.
In a 1978 report on Weather Modification Programs, entitled Weather Modification Programs: Problems, Policy, and Potential, the Congressional Research Service indicated that by the end of 1975 there were twenty-nine states with some sort weather modification law, including many Western states that had suffered from water shortages.110
The piecemeal lawmaking of the states provided a reason for the federal government to intervene on this matter. In fact, the federal government was taking steps to intervene to stop potential issues occurring. Senator Pell was from the State of Rhode Island and was concerned about what weather modification might do to sea levels.
This joint diplomatic
agreement was the breakthrough that would lead in fairly short order
to an international convention banning most forms of weather
During this time, the World Weather Watch and the Global Atmospheric Research Program were operating with new and refined technology and promoted cooperation in 135 countries.
These were major advances in the weather field which would help to lay the for treaty on weather modification.112
The treaty banned not only weather modification as weapon of warfare, but as a hostile diplomatic tool. The State Department was using weather modification as means to aid countries that need of water, and that practice of using weather modification as a form of positive development assistance was apparently not covered by the treaty.
However, this new treaty
would prevent a negotiation in which denying a country of water from
the sky was employed as a threat.
Currently there are seventy-six states that are parties to the Treaty. However, this treaty is not without controversy, in that it is somewhat vague in certain sections.
An example of this vagueness is,
The question is:
The treaty never defines what a long lasting effect is. This "long-lasting" phrase can be interpreted as a matter of geologic time, which is to say on the order of millions of years, or something much shorter-term such as a year or two. Depending on the context, either could be considered a long-lasting effect of environmental change.
Another aspect of this vagueness is that international considerations are pitted against nations' desire to share information about meteorological data.
Another aspect to
consider with this is the reason why meteorological data are shared
in the first place. The reason why that shares the data is to get
better forecasts for humans in order to prevent economic damage
since most of the world lives in a capitalist system or bartering
After World War II this sharing became more important because new discoveries were being made about oceanic currents and their effect on weather and discovering those oceanic currents at the same time.116
As indicate by the Senate's hearing, the executive branch under the Richard Nixon was not ready to negotiate such a treaty during the summer of 1974. 117 The United States was in a weakened state to negotiate this treaty by the mid-1970s, though in a few years President James Carter expressed greater interest.
The United States was also in a weak moral position to take the lead on negotiating this treaty, given that it had just been utilizing controversial weather modification techniques during the Second Indochina War.
Part of this change stemmed from the realization that weather and environment do much more than simply affect just one's local area. The way that the treaty emphasized coordination and cooperation in enforcement of the ban on weather modification, and the subsequent cooperation of both the communist bloc and non-communist nations, was a harbinger of future environmental cooperation.120
General Electric discovered in the late 1940s that for its own legal protection from tort liability, it could only team with government entities to conduct weather modification activities. Also, in the United States at least, the creation of the EPA would also cause companies to reconsider these types of activities to modify or impact the environment.
The attempt to control
the environment would be confined to local areas, but even then a
neighbor could object safely under this treaty if weather
modification was having negative impact on them.
The pressure to stop the potentially dangerous and unpredictable effects of weather modification grew as time progressed from the beginnings of the U.S. weather modification experience in 1947 to the signing of ENMOD.
The social effects of environmental modification ultimately are inextricable from their political and legal effects. Close observers could have noted this inextricability from considering the results of the General Electric experiments of the late 1940s, during which engineers caused over a foot of snow to fall over a wide area simply by mistake.
Thus, weather modification activities were largely conducted under the auspices of the U.S. State Department during the 1950s, during which time the Department of State was using weather modification in several different countries to provide rain in order to prevent or curtail drought that was naturally occurring in these countries.
Droughts allow for landscapes to be renewed, much as natural wildfires are sometimes allowed to occur in order to thin out forests. In order to allow the ecosystem to restart a new and allow for other species of plants and animals to thrive again in order to rebuild a mature forest, sometimes fire is needed.
Similarly, some of these cloud seeding operations were also occurring in the Middle East, an area that is notorious for having water shortages. In some respects, modifying the weather in order to create more artificial rain is not only an unnatural thing for the environment but modifying the environment in order to support more human life over the natural environment that would naturally occur there and only support a certain number of humans.
But modifying the environment of which humans live in is nevertheless an understandable thing for humans to do, and of course other means of reducing the impact of the weather and the environment - from dykes to dams to canals - have existed for millennia.
The mere ability to modify their environment allows for other activities of humans to occur in regions which otherwise might not support human habitation.
These weapons are especially dangerous because they threatened to destroy the natural environmental balance that is necessary for humans to survive on the planet. When the United States chose to cloud seed over Vietnam during the Second Indochina War, it began to pass over the boundary between modifying the environment for the benefit of all and creating a destructive non-livable situation for humans in the affected area.
The United States cloud seeding over Indochina made the situation for Vietnamese, Lao, and Cambodia people miserable and caused an environmental disaster - a disaster that only augmented the damage done by other damaging chemicals such as napalm and dioxin, and damage made only worse by seeing clouds with large amounts of lead.
Thus, the United States not only cloud seeded but also combined it with its defoliation operation which led to the destruction of the land which would take years if not decades to renew itself.
The secrecy surrounding the United States' use of these weapons also caused the response it received from the international community and domestic community to be compounded and more negative about environmental modification as becoming a weapon of war than it otherwise might have been.
Hence, Senate resolution 71, which demanded the executive branch to seek a treaty to ban such activities of weather modification, was a useful corrective in stopping environmental modification from becoming a significant weapon of war. Once the Soviet Union took an active interest in this idea, it provided the catalyst to negotiate a treaty at the United Nations.
While the United States did become a signatory to the treaty, the inaction of the United States' executive branch during the Nixon Administration was ultimately a public relations coup for the USSR, and the executive branch was made to look like it failed to act in the best interest of United States foreign policy.
The recalcitrance of the
executive branch was also against the interests of the Senate, which
had directed the executive branch to seek the treaty.
The example of weather cooperation on meteorological data should be a model for how environmental modification should be constrained in the future.