Gallery: Shooting Laser Beams in the Sky Could Produce Rain Clouds

 

Researchers at Switzerland’s University of Geneva have come up with an interesting way of making it rain–shooting lasers high up into the sky. Though the strategy seems like science fiction, the team hopes that the lasers will be able to increase rainfall in areas that need it.

The team, led by Jerome Kasparian, first tested the method in a lab setting. By shooting a 220-millijoule laser beam into a below-freezing, water-saturated chamber, scientists were able create clouds. To understand just how powerful that laser beam is, 220 millijoules is about as much energy as the intensity of 1,000 power plants!

While the lab demonstration is controversial (high-humidity at extremely low temperatures doesn’t mimic real-world conditions), Kasparian asserts that the process showed encouraging results in the field. The team shot laser beams 60 meters into the air in Berlin, Germany. Though clouds couldn’t be seen by the naked eye, LIDAR weather tracking systems confirmed that the laser boosted the density and size of water molecules in the air.

Clearly this process will have its critics–after all, a laser that powerful in the wrong hands could produce disastrous results. Still, scientists are working on optimizing the infrared laser’s wavelength, focus and pulse duration to produce large enough droplets to make it rain.

Via New Scientist

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3 Comments

  1. cashclientele May 10, 2010 at 4:38 am

    @iamwho2k – It would just most likely be over the sea.

    And if rain starts being taken away from other areas then we just shoot the lasers there as well.

  2. jek May 6, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    This is interesting. But I wonder if it’s possible to prevent rain by spotting the clouds the same way. In some cities in Southern Philippines, it is very common to hit the clouds with light beams (laser?) supposedly to prevent rain esp. when there’s a scheduled festivity, and to protect prawn farms. Is this true? We need rain around here, esp. with the El Niño….

  3. iamwho2k May 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    When I was taking Meteorology 110 way back when we talked about cloud seeding and other man-made methods to make it rain. One of the issues the professor brought up was, paraphrasing, “Sure, you can make it rain here, but then you’ve just taken away the rain from some other part of the map.” Think about it.

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