Scientists think they can control the weather using chaos theory

A team of researchers led by the RIKEN center in Japan has discovered an experimental way to control the weather itself using a concept from chaos theory related to the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.

This may sound like something out of a sci-fi B-movie, but this is legitimate peer-reviewed research.

In the front: Previous attempts to control the weather have borne fruit with minimal success. Currently, if we find large rain clouds ready to burst, we can anticipate them by seeding them to cause precipitation.

But the RIKEN team speaks of a whole new level of control.

According to the team’s research paper:

Our goal is to apply “chaos control” to the weather…we would like to control the weather in its natural variability and help human activities, for example, by moving the location of a region of extreme rainfall to avoid disasters without causing secondary consequences. -effect on global climate.

For extreme weather conditions that occur chaotically under natural variations, chaos control suggests that appropriate infinitesimal perturbations to the natural atmosphere alter the orbit of atmospheric dynamics in a desired direction.

If the appropriate infinitesimal perturbations are within our engineering capabilities, we could apply control in the real world.

To get a sense of how difficult the “chaos control” these researchers are referring to is, we need to use the kind of math that only supercomputers can handle.

Currently, meteorologists use advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computers to predict weather forecasts.

But, even with our best efforts, it’s still really hard to do.

According to the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration:

A seven-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about 80% of the time and a five-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about 90% of the time. However, a 10 day or longer forecast is only about half the time.

So how is chaos theory supposed to give us better odds than the coin toss? It all comes down to the butterfly effect.

According to the paper:

The “butterfly effect”, discovered by Lorenz in the 1960s, is a phenomenon that an infinitesimal disturbance like “a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil” causes a large consequence like “a tornado in Texas”.

This extreme sensitivity leads to chaotic behaviors and an intrinsic limit to predictability, but it also allows us to design effective control… i.e. we could take advantage of the “butterfly effect” and design effective control with a series of infinitesimal interventions leading to a desired future.

Essentially, the researchers developed complex weather simulations and then identified specific thermal windows where the application of artificial temperature fluctuations could influence the final outcome of a local weather system.

Instead of changing the climate, scientists would essentially flip just enough switches – or get enough butterflies to flap their wings in a different direction, if you prefer – inside a local weather system to make it do something predictable thing.

This could help keep tornado systems, typhoons or dangerous storms away from areas where they affect people or even help alleviate droughts and other prolonged abnormal weather conditions.

However, the team is very concerned about the potential ramifications of chaos theory controlling the weather.

According to the research:

We cannot be too cautious about potential side effects and must consider and deal with all possible consequences.

Luckily for all of us, the RIKEN team isn’t here to change the weather in the real world. So far, all of their experiments have been done in supercomputer simulations.

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