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Make It RainState Control of the Atmosphere in Twentieth-Century America$
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Kristine C. Harper

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226437231

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437378.001.0001

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Weather in an Icebox: Scientific Weather Control

Weather in an Icebox: Scientific Weather Control

(p.49) Chapter 2 Weather in an Icebox: Scientific Weather Control
Make It Rain

Kristine C. Harper

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the post-World War II euphoria that embraced technological fixes for all of America’s problems, natural or man-made, as a backdrop to the creation of scientific weather control in the late 1940s. Nobel Prize-winning chemist Irving Langmuir of the General Electric Research Laboratory had done wartime research on cloaking smokes and aircraft icing, which led to a very important question: why do some clouds precipitate and others do not? Experiments in a GE freezer with dry ice as a nucleating agent led to airborne experiments and then military funding for a fog and cloud dispersion research program (Project Cirrus). US Weather Bureau meteorologists, who were having a difficult time forecasting the weather, much less controlling it, found themselves backed into a corner when they questioned such work. While they successfully steered funds to their Cloud Physics Project, their experimental results—that cloud seeding did not produce economically viable amounts of precipitation—was not accepted by Langmuir, nor by congressional leaders who wanted to bring home water to their districts. Once the latter decided that weather control should be a state tool, the race was on to make it happen.

Keywords:   technological fix, Irving Langmuir, General Electric, Project Cirrus, Cloud Physics Project, US Weather Bureau

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