Jérôme Kasparian, Ludger Wöste and Jean-Pierre Wolf
The far-fetched concept of weather control just might be in
our scientific forecast. Researchers are making progress
in using ultrashort laser pulses to create lightning and cue
cloud formation, with potential applications in agriculture,
public safety and beyond.
f global warming or stratospheric ozone depletion have taught us any-
thing, it’s that humankind can profoundly influence the Earth’s climate
and environment. So far, our impact on the climate has been largely an
unintended consequence of our use of fossil fuels. But what if scientists
could alter the weather on purpose? Purposeful local weather modula-
tion—as well as broader attempts to “geo-engineer” climate change—are topics
that are being intensively debated within the scientific community and to some
extent among the public.
Such a possibility could imply invaluable economical and social consequences.
For example, imagine if lasers could be used to stimulate the formation of rain
clouds in drought-stricken areas or if lightning studies could help engineers
to create safer airplanes or power lines that can withstand lightning strikes.
Indeed, rain and lightning, with their far-reaching implications for agriculture
and public safety, are the weather-modulation methods that our team and other
physicists have focused on most intensively to date.
22 | OPN Optics & Photonics News