I am familiar with the concept of cloud seeding, where precipitation can be induced with aerosols, thereby altering storm intensity further downwind. Are there methods that could be used to drastically alter storm wind intensity or storm direction? What technology could theoretically be developed in the future that used satellites, ocean networks, balloons, or other devices to curb strong winds (e.g. tornadoes or hurricanes) so that populated areas could be protected. Or is a strong storm simply too large scale of an event to be altered significantly by humans?

  • $\begingroup$ I think storm is too general term in my opinion. Both tornadoes and hurricanes function at different scales of space and time and hence need to be considered separately. $\endgroup$
    – Vikram
    Jul 29, 2014 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ Also rather than trying to counter the winds when the storm is at its maximum, it is better to stop it in its earlier stages of formation. As you mentioned, cloud seeding is can be used, but only on the very initial stages when the storm is spatially small and can be controlled. But how do we find out, if a storm is forming at a certain place and time?This is where the means you mentioned (satellite, weather balloons, ocean buoy networks etc) comes into play. These tools provide us with the mealtime data which when fed to a model, can be used to used to predict the genesis of a storm. $\endgroup$
    – Vikram
    Jul 29, 2014 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Vikram I realize that tornadoes and hurricanes are completely different weather phenomena, but I am trying solicit any and all ideas that could be used to curb severe storms. I like the idea of using models to predict storm genesis and intercepting them early... but I am wondering HOW we might actually curb them. $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Jul 29, 2014 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ I also tried looking for answer to HOW. There were many wild ideas, like nuking a hurricane but the only interesting one i found was a study where they put a layer of oil over the water surface, which prevents the evaporation and hence the heat exchange on which a hurricane thrives. I really think it could work but then putting oil in ocean is not a good idea afterall. You can read about it here - web.mit.edu/hurricanelab/BostonGlobe.pdf . $\endgroup$
    – Vikram
    Jul 30, 2014 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Vikram Could you briefly list a few of those "wild ideas" and otherwise in an answer? $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Jul 31, 2014 at 0:54

4 Answers 4


There are numerous ways. Arguably, some we are already doing, but are not intended (such as urbanization and the emission of different pollutants). But I'll suppose you are wondering about intentional modifications. Moreover, this is perhaps too general of a question, as there are a variety of different types of storms, of varying sizes. I'll tackle what I can, in a reasonable fashion. And for the sake of argument, I'll just ignore the downsides.

Let me repeat that, I will ignore the downsides. This may yield a comedic effect.

  1. Extratropical cyclones.

Being that these take the energy from baroclinicity, a good way of disrupting the intensity of these storms is to warm the cold area and cool the warm area. You can do whatever you want to do to accomplish that, be it drop a couple megaton nuclear bombs in the cold region, etc.

  1. Tornadoes

One thing you need to know about tornadoes is that the storms that generate these rely on stability/buoyancy and shear. Leveling everything should reduce the shear. Covering the surface with ice should also promote a more stable atmosphere.

  1. Hurricanes

Hurricanes derive much of their energy from the temperature and entropy difference between the surface and the tropopause. Also, increasing the drag can reduce the wind speed. Different ways to do these can be found in NOAA.

Certainly these aren't all the ways that the weather can be modified. But these are just some. Of course, anything we do may backfire. Extratropical cyclones serve a purpose-transporting energy and momentum. Even hurricanes move water vapor towards the poles. And to that, I'll quote Jeff Goldblum:

...[Y]our scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.


IRI's (Ionospheric Research Instrument or HF Radio Transmitter) can be used to excite specific areas of the ionosphere. The resulting heat creates a high pressure system that can be then be used to push the jet stream or prevent it from moving. This is the type of equipment that world powers had in mind when they signed the Kyoto Protocol 50 years ago (banning weather warfare). Its also what the USAF had in mind when they wrote the manual "Weather as a Force Multiplier. Owning the Weather by 2025".

According to the USAF and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencies (DARPA) very own website, HAARP is designed to excite the ionosphere. This results in a super heated mass that expands outward, and therefore creating a high pressure system.

High pressure systems whether natural or man made have a direct impact on the path that a weather system will take. The jet stream will take the least path of resistance for example. When it encounters a high pressure system it is forced to take a different path. A high pressure system acts like the bumpers on a pin ball machine. This isn't a theory, it is meteorological science.

Whether or not the system is used for good or evil is another, unrelated topic.

I provided several references to credible sources that explain this technology in my previous answer. I will add to the list as you requested and hope that the additional references and citations adequately address your concerns.

USAF manual “Weather as a force Multiplier. Owning the Weather by 2025” can be found here:


United States Patent # 4,686,605 can be viewed on the US Patent offices website and offers a full description of the capabilities of the system:


The USAF’s official website that describes the installation has apparently been removed in anticipation of the planned disassembly of the installation. But archives of the website can still be found here:


Wikipedia's article on the topic can be found here:


And here's another article on Wikipedia that should illustrate the seriousness of weather warfare technologies and the precautions that various countries have taken to prevent abuse of the technology.


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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the response. I would also suggest you work on one answer rather than three. When I asked for references, I meant scientific publications. If you look at the first reference you posted, you will see that it is not in any way endorsed by USAF, and is actually an essay written by students. It is very wishy-washy and hypothetical, and basically says "if we could control the weather, we could dominate the battlespace". Further, wiki articles you provided do not support the claims you make. HAARP is real, but can it be used for weather modification? Hardly any. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2014 at 21:43

It is possible to change a storm a tiny bit by harvesting some of the wind energy atleast localy by using wind mills.

The energy of even the weakest storm is multiple gigawatts and in a strong storm the energy can reach into the range of terrawatts,unless we can harvest a significant part of this it will be impossible to change a storms force or direction in a significant way.

In a city large buildings will weaken the wind but only localy,the problem with cities is they are heat islands so the rising heat can start the wind blowing and in theory start the formation of a storm.

Cloud seeding is only effective for limiting the wind in a small area,as far as i know cloud seeding have been tried on storms before with very limited effect on the windspeed.

So the answer to your question is no it is not possible to change the force or direction of a storm in a significant way.


Clap your hands ... this is the human equivalent of a butterfly effect. Storm systems are chaotic, so tiny perturbations to the atmosphere grow rapidly and, eventually, alter the trajectory of future systems.

The drawback of this approach is that it is impossible to predict the magnitude or direction of the influence you have on any given system. Clapping your hands will not affect the path of an approaching storm, but, according to Lorenz's theory of chaos, it will eventually affect the path of storms -- perhaps a few months later. Alter storm intensity or direction in a controlled way is much harder.


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