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Science

Why Weather Control Conspiracy Theories Are Scientifically Ludicrous 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the mad-scientist-union-still-on-strike dept.
barlevg writes "The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang breaks down two popular conspiracy theories: that HAARP is responsible for severe weather and that contrails from commercial airliners are actually 'chemtrails' sprayed for nefarious purposes. The article shows why each is preposterous to anyone with even an elementary knowledge of meteorology or an iota of common sense. The author readily acknowledges that his analysis will do nothing to convince the tinfoil-hat-wearing, vinegar-spraying members of the populace."
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Why Weather Control Conspiracy Theories Are Scientifically Ludicrous

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  • I have to state unequivocally that the author is correct - there is nothing to worry about.

    Ewige Blumenkraft

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They may not be nefarious, but they do add particulates that had a demonstrative effect on atmospheric temps during the 9/11 airspace shutdown.

    And Jesse Walker has a new book on the United States of Paranoia that traces the bipartisan conspiracies since our founding and before.

    I'll check that out before some condescending post article

    • by lgw (121541)

      Nice - Poe's law in full effect: I simply cannot tell if the AC is trolling, and ultimate it doesn't matter. People really do think this way. However, as self deluded people go they're harmless: they neither tell me who I can sleep with nor what kind of car I can drive, so I'll take em over the more familiar left and right nutjobs.

    • by johnjaydk (584895)

      They may not be nefarious, but they do add particulates that had a demonstrative effect on atmospheric temps during the 9/11 airspace shutdown.

      Contrails contributes to an effect called global dimming where some sunlight is prevented from reaching the earth. The 9/11 ban on flying provided a perfect experiment for measuring the effect and the researchers where surprised at how large the effect was. The dimming effect goes some way to counteract the CO2 greenhouse effect.

      As to the chemtrails, there were an

  • by localman57 (1340533) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:11PM (#44587275)
    TO: WeatherGang
    FROM: J. Bezos
    SUBJECT: Weather Conspiracy Theories


    Guys,
    I know you're not that great at the whole internet thing and all, being a newspaper and such. But one of my other companies is actually pretty good at it. So take my advice. Don't feed the trolls.

    Regards,
    Jeff
  • The summary links to both a guy who writes on DailyKos and a guy who writes on Free Republic, and they agree with each other. Apparently vinegar-spraying chemtrail nuts are, in fact, the key to world peace. Or at least 1990s nostalgia.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:12PM (#44587285)

    The 1960s? Are we going to start seeing new stories about the government seeding the clouds?

    AVOID THE BROWN ACID, MAN!

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:20PM (#44587367) Homepage Journal

      The internet has precipitated a rise of self-congratulation and echo chambers that magnify and enhance conspiracy theories in the minds of the sufficiently credulous. This has allowed thought diseases like vaccine paranoia, chemtrails, and reptoids to spread rapidly among the at-risk populations.

      My proposed cure is that everyone be forced to have a 5 minute debate with a random individual they disagree with about their core beliefs. This should allow the spread of the "mental antibodies" that help resist this kind of infection*.

      *this method is pending clinical trial, and people who take my ideas seriously enough to schedule a clinical trial.

      • by Laxori666 (748529)
        Actually they did a study, something along these lines: they'd pick a divisive topic, and then show people arguments for and against either side of the topic. The people would also rate the effectiveness of the argument. They also marked down how strongly they believed in their position before and after reading the arguments.

        When people read arguments for the side they already agreed with, they would end up agreeing even more strongly - no surprise there. Yet it turned out that when people read arguments
        • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by quantaman (517394) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:45PM (#44588461)

          Actually they did a study, something along these lines: they'd pick a divisive topic, and then show people arguments for and against either side of the topic. The people would also rate the effectiveness of the argument. They also marked down how strongly they believed in their position before and after reading the arguments.

          When people read arguments for the side they already agreed with, they would end up agreeing even more strongly - no surprise there. Yet it turned out that when people read arguments against the side they agreed with, they would *still* end up agreeing even more strongly with their own position. In fact, the more well-rated an argument was by people who agreed with that side, the more it would cause someone who already disagreed to disagree even further.

          Unfortunately that was a bit laboured and I have no links handy, but I'm pretty sure that's how it went. The net take-away is, you can't convince anybody via textual arguments if they already strongly agree with something. The internet's archives are ample proof of this.

          I remember that study but I don't think it shows what most people think it does.

          Basically they asked someone how they felt about a topic, showed them an argument that disagreed with them, then asked again and found they were even more convinced of their original position.

          But if you think about it in practical terms that's neither surprising nor particularly irrational.

          For instance I believe AGW is real. I admit there's some degree of uncertainty, and papers that are wrong, and even researchers or journals not being as unbiased as they should be. But on the balance of evidence I think the evidence for AGW is overwhelming.*

          But a true believer who thinks AGW is a mistake or a fraud is going to come to the table with very refined arguments. They'll quote studies, incidents, effects, mistakes, all sorts of things I'll have no answer for. For me to simply switch sides in the face of those arguments would frankly be irrational, since all I'd have to do was wait until I ran into a well educated advocate for the other side and I'd switch back!

          Instead I reinforce my opposition to their position and argue back. Push their arguments trying to look for holes or misrepresented facts. This is what I think the study detects, the defensive response when people enter an argument.

          What they don't look at is what happens later. When you keep thinking about the good arguments and doing research and the other side still holds up. Eventually if people keep seeing the good arguments they start to reevaluate their position, but it doesn't happen over the course of a single argument where people are trying to defend themselves.

          I actually had this happen with regards to nutrition, I'd heard some extended interviews with Gary Taubes explaining how nutrition science had gotten it wrong and carbs and insulin were the true cause of obesity and I was a believer for a time. But then a friend argued with me, presenting some good points, so I dug in and defended Taubes hypothesis. But later I went back, did my own research, and eventually came to the conclusion that Taubes was wrong.**

          If that episode was in that study I'd probably been just as sure as before of Taubes in the immediate aftermath of that conversation. But that conversation eventually led me to reverse my position entirely.

          * This is just an example, I'm not trying to cause an AGW debate.
          ** Or a Taubes debate, I've already got one going [slashdot.org]

  • Just like those "Gummint is watching everything you do!" tinfoilers were wrong. I'M ONTO YOU!
    • by tibit (1762298)

      Collecting all internet and telecom traffic is not the same as watching everything you do, unless it's by your own choice.

  • Recent events (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:18PM (#44587343) Homepage
    I think that in light of recent events, you have to give the tinfoil-hat crowd the benefit of the doubt, no matter how insane they seem.
  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:18PM (#44587347) Homepage Journal

    The sad thing about conspiracy theories and the internet age is that no matter how far out or whackjob the theory may be, you can find a dozen videos documenting "proof" of the theory and entire forums full of people who believe in the lunacy and who circle-jerk each other in a frenzy of panic.

    • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:22PM (#44587387)

      Isn't that the "History Channel"?

    • The sad thing about conspiracy theories and the internet age is that no matter how far out or whackjob the theory may be, you can find a dozen videos documenting "proof" of the theory and entire forums full of people who believe in the lunacy and who circle-jerk each other in a frenzy of panic.

      Because there were no whack jobs and conspiracy nuts before the 'internet age'?
      Son, sit right down and let me tell you about Lyndon LaRouche [wikipedia.org].

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:34PM (#44587565) Homepage Journal

      The sad thing about conspiracy theories and the internet age is that no matter how far out or whackjob the theory may be, you can find a dozen videos documenting "proof" of the theory and entire forums full of people who believe in the lunacy and who circle-jerk each other in a frenzy of panic.

      The other side of that double-edged sword is that it's now trivial for trolls and misinformation agents to convince the masses that an actual, legitimate conspiracy is "bunk" merely by publicly and regularly lambasting anyone who brings it up. For example, every person who claimed the NSA was spying on Americans, prior to Ed Snowden's recent disclosure.

      Not saying that's the case here, just pointing out the flip side.

      • by cusco (717999) <brian@bixby.gmail@com> on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:17PM (#44588151)
        That technique is called "poisoning the well" and has been a psyops technique for decades. The rise of the Internet has made the operation orders of magnitude cheaper and easier, and it's no longer just the realm of government either. Corporations have jumped on it in a big way, stuffing online polls, flooding online forums with fake posts, and creating false product recommendations on buying sites. The weird thing to me is that people refuse to believe that it's going on, even when presented with the confessions of people who had been paid to do it.
        • One good term deserves another:

          The weird thing to me is that people refuse to believe that it's going on, even when presented with the confessions of people who had been paid to do it.

          That, my friend, is called cognitive dissonance, [wikipedia.org] better known around these parts as doublethink or mental gymnastics - the active denial of reality, when reality counters a strongly held belief.

          And I concur, it is quite mindblowing to see in action.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        But everyone already knew the NSA was spying on Americans for decades. This was not a secret and absolutely not a suprising revellation. This was widely acknowledged by people with no other conspiracy theorist associations. The new part was how they were doing it as well as the involvement of telecommunications companies.

        A conspiracy theorist on the other hand would be the sort of person who believes that the clicks when talking on the phone are there because it makes that sound when the NSA flips the s

    • by Sasayaki (1096761) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:09PM (#44588065)

      A key component of nearly all, or in fact all, conspiracy theories is a vast group of dedicated individuals with almost infinite resources who, in ways grand and mundane, affect reality to hide some truth or collection of truths. The problem with that theory is that any evidence to the contrary, no matter how convincing, is in fact seen as evidence *for* the theory.

      An example. There are two ninjas outside your window right now.

      Go on, take a look.

      See any ninjas?

      No, of course you didn't, because they're invisible. Ninjas are badarse pros who would never be seen by an amateur. They're there, though. I was reading on Black Helicopter-o-pedia about the ninja training program in 1967 that produced hundreds of thousands of these trained, stealthy killers and they watch "persons of interest" constantly. Go read a book, sheeple!

      More seriously, though, the root cause of conspiracy theories is usually ego. The kind of people who believe in them are typically those who have a very high opinion of themselves, often to the point of believing that they're amongst a small group of people (as small as 1 person) who are somehow smart enough, or cunning enough, or brave enough, or in some way "special" enough to avoid some great trick or ailment that affects the "mundanes". The idea, though, that they are infact deficient in some manner, such as being batshit insane, can't cross their minds because they've convinced themselves that they're better than everyone.

      That's not to say that mainstream ideas are always correct, or that the most popular opinion is the best one; but any theory that relies, in some part, on you being intrinsically better than everyone, including academics and those with decades of experience and know-how in certain areas who have no incentive to cover up vast scandals, or that relies on a global, infinitely resourced, powerful, invisible cabal to work is probably bullshit.

      Plus, you know, these things do have a tendency to come out. The NSA got busted doing a huge amount of domestic spying lately. They ARE an organisation that is essentially global, essentially infinitely resourced, powerful, invisible... and they managed to conceal this fact for what? Ten years, only?

      • After getting a long lecture from one of my conspiracy theory believing friends about how some particular conspiracy was real, I summed up her explanation as, "The complete lack of evidence of the conspiracy is proof that the conspiracy is real." She liked her explanation better.

        Cheers,
        Dave

  • by catfood (40112) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:23PM (#44587401) Homepage

    This article is a pretty weak debunking. If the government really wanted to spray chemicals from commercial jets, they wouldn't let a little thing like weight limits stop them. Make shorter flights that require less fuel. Leave a lot of empty seats to provide more slack weight. Spray in really small quantities. Whatever.

    Seriously, Occam's Razor debunks better than this. Simply: what the hell makes you think that chemicals are being routinely sprayed out of commercial jets for nefarious purposes? On what basis is the ordinary scientific explanation about vapor condensation not a good enough explanation for the trails? And if the government can spray chemicals in the air on that scale, why can't they make them invisible too?

    It's got nothing to do with weight limits and everything to do with unnecessary complexity.

    As long as I'm at it, wouldn't you think that if chemtrails were a real thing, Manning and Snowden would have found out and blabbed?

    • by timholman (71886)

      Seriously, Occam's Razor debunks better than this. Simply: what the hell makes you think that chemicals are being routinely sprayed out of commercial jets for nefarious purposes? On what basis is the ordinary scientific explanation about vapor condensation not a good enough explanation for the trails? And if the government can spray chemicals in the air on that scale, why can't they make them invisible too?

      This reminds me of a guy I spoke to recently who was convinced (by an Internet video) that cameras and

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Ah but to the conspiracy theorists no one knows about the spraying except for the few enlightened conspiracy theorists. The government doesn't hide their operations better because people are too stupid to notice the obvious. It's cheaper for the government to suppress the few enlightened theorists than to change their plans.

      This is great thinking for the theorists; it puts them into a tiny group or people who know a big secret, and that they're important enough that the government is trying to suppress th

  • by Applekid (993327) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:25PM (#44587439)

    The article shows why each is preposterous to anyone with even an elementary knowledge of meteorology or an iota of common sense

    Actually, it doesn't. The closest I saw was this:

    HAARP does not and cannot control the weather. While the frequencies are high powered, it doesn’t have nearly enough energy to do anything over the Lower 48, let alone specifically target communities for destruction like one would see in a science fiction movie. Both common sense and a basic understanding of meteorology debunk the conspiracy theory surrounding HAARP’s alleged ability to control the weather.

    So the question is, how do we know how much energy is being pumped into the ionosphere? The whole article seems mostly of ridicule. "Well, of course it doesn't, you'd have to be crazy to believe otherwise, but we're not going to provide any evidence."

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think HAARP is part of an evil shadowy conspiracy to create tornados and tsunamis or whatever. But I'm also not a meteorologist... so a breakdown of the physics required to perform such a feat compared to what we know would be pretty useful. I remember a Weekly World News article claiming hackers can turn your computer into a bomb... and as a computer professional, I know exactly why that's impossible and might even giggle at the thought. But I can't expect the general public to explicitly know that there's no real-life equivalent to the HCF instruction.

    Kind of like What If at xkcd [xkcd.com]... putting things to scale such as a hair dryer [xkcd.com] that just happens to draw 11 petawatts of power can really hit the understanding home.

    • by HappyHead (11389) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:50PM (#44587825)
      Wait... you linked to xkcd in a thread about conspiracy theorists and things like chemtrails, and didn't include the comic about that? [xkcd.com]

      Silly person!
    • These debunking articles are always completely scientific garbage.
      Weather is chaos theory. Theoretically you do not need much power at all, just incredibly precise and detailed knowledge.

      And of course they could spray chemicals into the contrails of aircraft, if they wanted to.

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        Weather is chaos theory. Theoretically you do not need much power at all, just incredibly precise and detailed knowledge.

        If they have that kind of precise and detailed knowledge about weather then someone ought to tell the National Weather Service so they can improve their forecasts.

    • The conspiracy theorists won't listen to science anyway, so why not just ridicule them. They're going to need to get used to it if they insist on holding such stupid beliefs.
  • I guess all that WWII wartime footage of allied bombers leaving contrails is evidence of them spraying chemicals on the Nazis, as well as dropping bombs.

    • by 32771 (906153)

      They didn't spread British weather over Germany. Even though the additional 300mm of rain would have be great.

  • Anyone with half a brain should realize the mass of the atmosphere is quite huge. In order for these so-called chemtrails to be able to saturate the atmosphere to the point where everyone would get a good dose of mind control agents (or whatever), the amount needed would be staggering. Probably more than is feasible both economically and industrially. Then add to that the upper atmospheric air is warmer and thus will not fall to the surface bringing any poisons with it. Nevermind that there is different win

  • by bertd (53884) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:34PM (#44587579)

    The NSA should hire the SCTO (secret chem trail organization) to handle their security. No more leaks to worry about. Show the NSA how to control information right.

    It is clear that the SCTO maintains a global fleet of thousands of specially modified tanker aircraft for 24/7 operations. There is a small army of technicians, mechanics and pilots. They skillfully manage extreme logistical challenges to safely manufacture, store, and distribute all the millions of tons of chemicals. All in secret. Not one whistle-blower. Not one crash or chemical spill. Not one photo or chemical sample has leaked.

  • by s.petry (762400) on Friday August 16, 2013 @03:34PM (#44587581)

    This article reeks of poisoning the well. China has modified the weather publicly. Russia has modified the weather publicly. To claim that it's impossible is pretty damn idiotic! If you are not suspicious as to why the most allegedly advanced society in the world claims it can't do it you really should get off the medication.

    The fact that the plans for chemtrails and weather modification are not given does not make science study disappear. We know things are happening and we can measure them. Aluminum and Barium in the atmosphere has been shown to be true by numerous scientific studies. Those metals are measurable in plants and soil which has also been measured. The underlying "why" is not seen because it's all "top-secret" but that does not make the metals disappear.

    This idiot thinks that their "why" is better than someone else' "why". While everything is buried in "top-secret" files nobody knows. How about petitioning the Government to open up instead of claiming it's all for the greater good without any evidence? If we don't open things up, that speculation that it's all for the greater good has identical credibility to the guy who believes it's for nefarious purposes.

    Then we get to the outright lies in this article. "HAARP does not and cannot control the weather. " Wait a minute there non-scientist! If the stated goals of exciting and heating particles and atoms in the ionosphere, and we know that they can do that, how does that not give someone the ability to control weather? What happens to air that is heated and cooled? Water that's heated and cooled? Come now, someone has to have had junior high level physics and chemistry and can see how outrageous that claim is. If their argument is based on a lie, the rest of the summaries are worth nothing.

    • Well points for not posting anonymous, but do you realise that your post is a frothing mix of wide-eyed lunacy?
      • by s.petry (762400)

        Oh please enlightened one, show me where I have provided any wide-eyed lunacy.

        • Your whole post, basically. If you can't see why it's laughable then you're beyond help. I'll give you a clue though - what's the total amount of thermal energy in the atmosphere compared to the amount that HAARP can put out?
          • by s.petry (762400)

            So there is nothing in my statements you can pinpoint as you claimed "wide-eyed lunacy", you just "think" it's all wrong?

            I'll give you a clue though - what's the total amount of thermal energy in the atmosphere compared to the amount that HAARP can put out?

            The energy of HAARP is enough to create a false Aurora Borealis, which you can find on HAARPs own home page. That is quite a bit of energy. Now if you take that same energy and heat up the front end of a storm system what happens to the storm system?

            Personally, I find it laughable that people deny facts in order to support the delusion. I don't assume that lucifarians are manipulating

            • OK, I'll bite. This is the frothiest bit: "The fact that the plans for chemtrails and weather modification are not given does not make science study disappear. We know things are happening and we can measure them. Aluminum and Barium in the atmosphere has been shown to be true by numerous scientific studies."

              Shock horror, there's some elements in the atmosphere. Obviously they must have come there from chemical additives to jet exhaust for the purpose of weather modification! It's a ludicrous leap of logic

              • by s.petry (762400)

                Shock horror, there's some elements in the atmosphere. Obviously they must have come there from chemical additives to jet exhaust for the purpose of weather modification! It's a ludicrous leap of logic and makes me ashamed to be in the same society as you.

                And it is impossible to determine what normal values are to see if things become abnormal under certain circumstances? Okay, maybe you skipped every science class through school. I think it more likely that your irrational point of view, that a normal can never established, is laughable.

                HAARP is a radio transmitter for studying ionospheric communications. If you can't see the difference then you really are beyond hope.

                And how exactly do they study the impact the ionosphere? Are you telling me that these are like magic ground based sensors that use some really cool reverse osmosis to determine what is happening? Maybe you should read H

  • They'll have weather controlling satillites soon. Then the only worry will be when Q comes to town....

  • I thought the Chemtrails were supposed to be a mystery additive to jet fuel that does whatever the government feels like that day. So you wouldn't have tanks and plumbing and stuff in the aircraft, it would be a shadowy something or the other at the refinery. Or maybe added in transport or something. Maybe I made that up because the real conspiracy makes no sense at all. Even then you're talking about something that has to survive being burnt up in a jet engine and quite a bit of time up in the stratosp
  • I am more put off by people who mock and lampoon those with differing belief systems, than I am by those with whom I simply disagree.
  • My hat is off to OP, who managed to cite a conspiracy theory in his little diatribe about conspiracy theory.

    News: while I agree that vinegar-sprayers may belong to the tinfoil hat clan, there are no more of them, in proportion to total number of people, in Ron Paul supporters than there are in any other group.
    • Correction:

      I meant "managed to SUPPORT a conspiracy theory himself, in his little diatribe about conspiracy theory."

      There. Fixed that for me.
  • All this time, I've been spraying vinegar to clean the kitchen floor. Silly me. I'm not doing anything to stop the... um what was it again... oh yeah! chem trails. At least the floor is clean.

  • Vinegar is a nice and very cheap chemical product, specifically white vinegar which is kind of the pure form (dissolved in water). It cleans and disinfect stuff. I even cleaned red wine on a shirt with 25% vinegar, 25% alcohol and 50% cool water, it just all went away and I wore it without washing it further.

    I've been wanting it in a spray but did not find empty spray bottles yet, I didn't look for it much either, in supermarkets they just sell them but full of some crap I don't need. Though, I stumbled upo

    • by Valdrax (32670)

      I even cleaned red wine on a shirt with 25% vinegar, 25% alcohol and 50% cool water, it just all went away and I wore it without washing it further.

      Everyone in the office must have loved you.

  • Is a second not spent curing cancer and inventing cool stuff.

    And it's not like it'll do any good anyway. The creationist/altmed/antivax/birther/truther/moon-hoax crowd is invested into their beliefs in a fashion that does not permit rational refutation.

  • by AlienSexist (686923) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:27PM (#44588249)
    A number of patents have been issued for various methodologies for weather modification (which I suppose doesn't prove they work). But don't also forget that China openly brags [google.com] about doing weather modification such as clearing smog for the Beijing Olympics or around other cities.

    I wouldn't suspect they are the only ones.
  • this has already been thoroughly debunked. It is well known that man cannot affect the weather. Just look up "Global Warming" or "Climate Change", and you will see that they specifically state than "man has no influence on the weather". Anyone who states otherwise is decried as a "denier", and thoroughly mocked.
    Why would the United States spend Billions on this research, with significant tax increases, if it was true?

  • by MrL0G1C (867445)

    There are times when I have looked up at the sky at what should be a clear blue sky, but the sky is covered with contrails, they've literally spread out and covered the whole sky.

    You can't tell me with a straight face that filling the sky with so much pollution that that doesn't make a difference, of course it makes a difference.

  • Crazy mind-control additives aside, what is the impact (if any) of so many regular condensation trails being woven around the globe? I'm necessarily saying I believe it has an impact of global weather systems, I just like poking hornets' nests.
  • ...if you're the world's biggest douche.

  • I never dismiss conspiracies out of hand yet I do tend to ignore most for lack of evidence and interest.

    A recurring theme that has always bothered me skeptics are almost always on the winning side by default without having expended any effort to get there. I have observed some tend to invoke and get away with many of the same errors in judgement and thought as the pro-conspiracy crowd.

    Writing a broad article means you don't have to address or defend specific claims, you can use the most crazy claims to dro

  • Vinegar, really? To their credit, the "conspiracy theorists" don't make such radical claims nor do they contribute it to commercial airliners. A contrail is not the same as a chemtrail. I'll give the conspiracy theorists credit because the trails that are left behind are by federally deployed jets at high altitude. In California, they're deployed every two hours.

    It's not ludicrous and it *is* scientifically sound. The research was done in the 1940s to help mitigate global warming.

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