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on Mar 24th 2014, 08:25:19, WMO wrote the following about


Do no harm’ ge
oengineering of climate and hurricanes
Roland List,
Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
1. Introduction
There is a lot of excitement in the
scientific and engineering worlds about geo-
engineering, GeoE, and the expectation to
provide quick fixes for vital, climate-related
problems of mankind. Big efforts are presently
being made – without really knowing what the
non-scientific boundary c
onditions are. One is
reminded about the early days of weather
modification, WM, with its unregulated turmoil.
Thus, a comparison may be in order. To do that
the questions surrounding WM and its relevance
to GeoE will be discussed. Suggestions will
then be made about how GeoE can be made
safe and robust for political, scientific and
engineering aspects. TheDo no harm
principle, introduced to medicine by Hypocrates,
will then be applied to GeoE with the help of a
sequence of “reversible”
steps. Examples will
clarify possible solutions by characterizing
present shortcomings and how they can be
ThisDo no harm’ safety net is
necessary for the protection of the scientists and
engineers involved in GeoE operations.
Before delving into the above aspects,
the GeoE issues will be
restricted to large
weather systems (hurricanes, Hu, and climate,
Cl). Thus, the methods will involve the injection
into the atmosphere of gases and/or particles as
well as the placing of devices in space, such as
mechanical radiation shields. The discussion
will not encompass
the chemistry of the oceans.
An interesting quick summary of all such issues
is to be found in R. Hauser and N. Gordon
2. Tackling WM issues by WMO
The SAHEL drought in the sixties and
seventies exposed the wild
situation in WM, as
practiced by many commercial companies.
Several tried to outbid each other in Dakar. Bids
to increase precipitat
ion (personal communi-
cation by Dr. Seck, Director of the
Meteorological Service of Senegal, 1973) varied
from 20 to 90%. This prompted the Executive
Committee of the World Meteorological
Organization in 1972 to establish a WM Panel
with the purpose of bringing order into the field.
This Panel consisted of Gagin, Warner,
Goldsmith, Cunningham, Alusa, Sedunov,
Krastanov, Borivikov, Bojkov, etc. with List as
chair. This Panel started to produce a
‘Statement of the Art of Weather Modification’,
set-up ofGuidelines for WM Experiments’, and
a world registry of WM projects, organized
topical quadrennial WMO Scientific Conferences
on WM, and produced 50+ reports on all aspects
of WM. It also initiated the ‘Precipitation
Enhancement Project, PEP’ in Spain. PEP,
while not having the financial support to go into
the seeding phase, nevertheless, was a
textbook example about how to setup and
evaluate WM experiments.
The criteria for acceptable WM
Experiments were established as follows:
(i) The experiment had to be randomized
and evaluated statistically;
(ii) The effectiveness had to be judged on
the rain increase
at the ground
(iii) The statistical success required
by physical insight and understanding
(iv) The methods had to be transferable to
other parts of the world.
The papers by List (2003, 2004) give an
overview of these issues.
3. Application to large systems, Hu + Cl
3.1. General aspects
The scale of WM and GeoE projects is
different. GeoE involves operations across the
jurisdiction of many countries to world-scale
projects, while WM is basically a national issue
and governed by local authorities. In GeoE the
legal frame setting is international. The
consequence is that:
all countries affected by a
GeoE project have to agree with the planned
. On first sight this seems to make
actual GeoE nearly impossible. However,
examining the issue leads to a solution: the
guiding principle of
Do no Harm
has to be
incorporated into all GeoE projects.
Another issue is the evaluation of
success. Contrary to
WM projects, GeoE will
not be statistically evaluated because every
single interference has to have a positive
outcome. No negative results are acceptable.
This can be achieved by choosing a

approach, i.e. careful testing of the science and
engineering has to be done in a
approach. Only advances are to be made when
a phase has been completed with the postulated
progress. The issues can be separated
into two categories: engineering and science.
Engineering aspects: Can gases or particulates
be produced in desirable form, and be delivered
into the atmosphere (troposphere or
stratosphere) with the right dosage, at the right
time and where intended. What is the
residence time of these substances and how are
they diluted or concentrated, and redistributed?
Can devices such as mechanical radiation
screens (small at first) be deployed in space and
how effective are they, etc.
As in WM the main question mark in
GeoE is scientific: Physical understanding. Are
the processes to be interfered with fully
understood? This is only a rhetorical question
since the answer is definitely “NO”. Hurricanes,
for example, are only described by general
features, and no details about the interplay of
the convective entities are known. That asks for
measuring programs
involving numerous
satellites and radars and
swarms of aircraft and
cloud physics equipped drones . Where is the
equipment, where is the manpower? Then there
are the
. The most sophisticated ones
are prone to hand-waving and are generally
without sufficient and credible predictive power.
The understanding of climate and climate
change is still in its infancy. The ignorance of
the precipitation processes is appalling, and the
suggested linking of precipitation to temperature
is incomprehensible.
Besides an elaboration of these
comments, detailed reversible steps will be
3.2. Engineering issues, the delivery system
If an approach requires the injection of
gases or particulate matter into the lower or
upper atmosphere, then me
thods of delivery of
the seed material have to be developed that
disperses the substances into a known volume
with a known concentration distribution. It is not
sufficient that such information is available right
after injection, it is also necessary to know how
the injected material disperses and if it is in part
washed up in certain corners of the atmosphere.
Is it altered with time, does it stay effective?
In WM launching of rockets and burning
of flares from aircraft ar
e standard. Anti-aircraft
guns have also been used to deliver shells with
seeding agents. Targeting is normally based on
Doppler radar information. Rockets can be set
to release seeding materials at the right
elevations and for a desirable burn-time.
Shelling also produces good results if the reach
of the guns is adequate. Seeding has also been
done by ground devices (AgI burners).
Targeting, however, is diffi
cult in that situation
which may not be an issue in GeoE as long as
the seeding material reaches the intended
zones. The cost of methods generally applied in
WM, however, would be prohibitive for GeoE
over areas of 10
and up.
3.3 TheDo no
TheDo no harmprinciple should guide
any modification test or application, be it of
engineering or scientific nature. An inert
placebo” approach may be chosen first to study
aspects of materialsdelivery, dispersion and
residence time. Once the physics of the process
is understood and quantified, active seeding
agents may be used with the restriction that the
target area be small at first and the test be short
in duration, but be stepwise increased if the gain
in insight and the outcome justify it. Should the
physics be different fr
om expectation, the
theoretical understanding should be developed
and deepened to fully explain the experimental
results. Afterwards testing can resume. By
proceeding in this fashion the maximum damage
should be short-lived and reversible, particularly
if the operational area is not large enough to
induce measurable effects on climate and
hurricanes. The stepping
up of scale could then
be resumed. The conditions in a test area,
initially of size of o.100 km
, are not expected to
be of consequence to large scale climate. That
may start at 1000 km
and up.
Not only should the science be tested,
so should be the engineering, its apparatus and
3.5 Mechanical radiation shields in space
The step by step approach is also necessary for
the case of space shields to redirect the suns
radiation. It is suggested that, from the science
point of view, the initial maximum shield area
should not exceed 10
km. It would have to be
calculated on the basis that a full blocking of the
suns radiation would be possible in the center of
its shadow on the earth. From the engineering
point of view the matter of shield deployment
may start at smaller sizes. Is it possible to float
the shields at geostationary fashion over the
equator or would they “roam” in non-stationary
fashion according to known physical laws.
Could freely floating shields of limited dimension
produce a reduction in solar radiation sufficient
for limited but sufficient cooling. A back of the
envelope calculation gives total shield
dimensions of 10
for an overall radiation
reduction of 1%, if centered in line sun/earth.
3.6. The Peter-robbing-Paul Principle
The second requirement of WM in
Section 2 was required because ~ 50% of
precipitation never reaches the ground. There is
not equivalent need in climate modification –
climate is addressing the atmosphere near the
But the Peter-robbing-Paul effect, which is
of importance in WM, will also be important to
GeoE. [In rainmaking ther
e is a possibility that
inducing more precipitation in one area may
diminish rain in an adjacent area.]
Radiation modification may well have
larger effects on certain areas than others, even
by design. This may be easier to assess if
mechanical shields are used, and not methods
based on gases or particulates
4. Hurricane modification
In 1974 WMO organized a Typhoon
Modification Conference in Manila (chaired by R.
List) at a time when the Philippines and the US
considered launching a typhoon seeding project.
At that time this area experienced ~16 typhoons
per annum. The recommendation was not to
seed within 1 h before landfall. China, being
not in the UN at that time, let it be known that
they were against such modification, and that
they rather had the damage and the rain, than
no damage and no rain. This is a legitimate
concern also in the Caribbean where 40+ % of
the annual precipitation comes from hurricane
systems. The climate of
some of the islands is
fragile and less rain could easily transform some
of them into deserts. Scientists have been very
nonchalant and claimed that their assessments
did not reveal any such problems.
5. Physics and numerical models
Physical understanding is often
transformed into numerical models.
Unfortunately, the availa
bility of lavish climate
change research funds has syphoned off most
of the cloud modelers. Thus, nearly no progress
has been made in the past decades about the
formation of precipitation in clouds. As a
consequence, no basis exists for reliable and
predictive models. The present models are
insufficient and the attempt to replace cloud
physics by stochastic stat
istics, as it is being
done at ECMWF [“such models give better
results”!], is abominable. It is
stated by
the IPCC that present climate change models
have basically no skills when it comes to
precipitation. Climate models are based on
balance equations equating solar input in the
equatorial regions to the pole-ward transport of
heat, and speculations have been made about
a possible correlation between
precipitation and
. Horrible! Luckily for some climate
modelers, there are the ensemble models which
can be abused to prove anything.
6. Actions to be taken
Geoengineering with its hurricane and
climate modification requires a UN agreement,
like the Law of the Sea, stating that no GeoE
activities are allowed to interfere within the
jurisdiction of individual countries unless they
explicitly approve. Obviously, aLaw of the
Atmosphere’, similar to theLaw of the Sea’, has
no chance to get approved before another 200
years have passed. However, a ‘Protocol’, like
the ‘Montreal Protocol’ on freons, should be
politically feasible.

This Protocol should be laying out the
rational and contain frames and mechanisms,
stating how climate and hurricane modification
can be can be carried out.

The Protocol should outline how a
guiding and controlling body, the
Intergovernmental Panel for Geo-Engineering,
IPGE, be set up and what its main functions are.

It is suggested that the IPGE be
responsible for formulating its tasks which are
culminating in the execution and evaluation of a
modification operation. The IPGE could be
composed of heads of large research institutions
(related to atmospheric physics), top scientists
and engineers, two specialists in international
law, and the head of one of the worlds biggest
Re-Insurance companies.

The IPGE would not operate like a
regular panel, it would use hybrid modes. For
some issues, the heads of
the large institutions
would also make the expertise of their
specialists available.
The function of the IPGE should not be
assumed by the ICCP,
which is considered
incompetent in matters relating to proper
consideration of precipitation processes as
integral parts of the climate issue

The main initial functions of the IPGE
would be
To setup Guidelines for reversible step-
by-step climate change projects recognizing the
do no harm’ approach. Such Guidelines would
also contain assessment and selection criteria.
To start a collection of proposed
projects and select 2-3 for further in-depth study.
Preliminary first assessment of the
scientific and technical feasibility and the
required financial resources.
Project selection and securement of
Overseeing project.
It has to be understood that a climate change
operation would be the biggest project man
has ever undertaken.
Other Requirements

Measuring capabilities need to be
dramatically improved, thereby remembering
that the scales and resolutions and data volume
are beyond past operations.

Physical understanding needs to be
substantially improved and models have to be
developed, capable of producing reliable and
realistic representations which approach the limit
of predictability. The UN should be encouraged
to agree on a Protocol declaring that every
country has to agree to GeoE if they affect their
country. The UN should endorse aDo no harm
concept for GeoE;

A highest-level scientific-technical-legal
UN committee, the IPGE, has to be in overall
charge of acceptable GeoE projects.
7. Summary

The WMO criteria for weather
modification are of value for geoengineering. -
Physical under-standing is a common
requirement and is the top priority in both fields.
- The Peter-robbing-Paul principle is of even
more importance in geoengineering than in
weather modification, considering that uneven
climate changes may be a much bigger issue. –
It is obvious that statistical evaluation is not an
issue in climate modification because every
attempt has to be on target. – The elaborate
seeding technology and strategy of rain making
has direct application to both climate and
hurricane modification.

ADo no harm’ approach makes it
possible to embark on GeoE of hurricanes and
climate because it creates safe conditions for
the citizens of the world. Not the least benefit
is the legal protection for the scientists and
engineers involved in GeoE.

A UN Protocol has been suggested to
establish that right tono harm’ underlining the
right of people to have a safe environment.

A body has been suggested similar to
the ICCP but addressing
the issues of GeoE.
Working guidelines have been listed to achieve
the goals of climate modification.

It is recognized that tremendous
progress is required in science and engineering
to enable safe GeoE projects. Present physical
insight into the systems to be modified is totally
insufficient to even think of geoengineering
hurricanes and climate. It
is easy to realize that
aDo no harm’ approach is not cheap as some
of the proponents of GeoE
envisage. GeoE is
not a quick fix considering that the price tag
could easily be $ 100 billi
on just to get started.
Producing measurement platforms and
instruments, a firm scientific basis, and the
training and education of the necessary
manpower is everything but cheap.
Geoengineering of hurricanes and
climate is a tremendous challenge – it may
even be as big as to wean mankind from the
energy addiction and use of fossil fuel.
Hauser, R., and N. Gordon, 2010: Getting
serious about geo-engineering, Fall 2010,
(with contributions by J. Latham, K.
Lackner, D. Keith, K. Caldeira, A. Robock, and P.
List, R., 2004: Weather Modification – A scen-
ario for the future.
Bull. Amer. Met. Soc
, 51-63.
List, Roland, 2003: WMO weather modification
activities, a fifty year history and outlook. 8
Scientific Weather Modification Conference,
Casablanca, Marocco, 7-17 April,
WMP Report
39, 1-10 (invited paper).
WMO, 1974: Typhoon modification.
Proceedings WMO Technical Conference, Manila, 15-
18 Oct.,
WMO – No. 408.

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