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06-17-2024

Climate change denial: Historic floods are not caused by cloud seeding

Climate change has caused historic floods that devastated countries from Brazil to Kenya in recent months, and climate skeptics are now blaming a weather modification technique known as cloud seeding to deny the role of global warming in these extreme events.

El Niño and climate change

Record rainfall brought to some regions by the natural weather cycle El Niño aligns with an expected increase in extreme weather events, experts say.

However, online claims repeatedly suggest that geoengineering, rather than carbon emissions, is to blame.

For example, after unprecedented downpours hit Dubai, conservative commentator Robby Starbuck told his 460,000 followers on X in April: “Dubai airport looks like an apocalyptic movie. Videos of the flooding are insane. I’ve seen some blaming climate change when the cause is actually from the use of weather modification. Cloud seeding where chemicals are sprayed in clouds to create rain caused this.”

Cloud seeding and public perception

Claims of weather manipulation appeared after every major flood this year, including in Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates, and other nations.

According to Google Trends data, searches for cloud seeding reached a record high after the Dubai floods in April.

Posts on X, such as “I have not agreed to our planet having cloud seeding everywhere, have you?” reflect a growing public belief that cloud seeding is to blame for recent rainfall.

Cloud seeding introduces tiny particles into the sky to induce rain over small geographical areas and has gained popularity worldwide as a way to combat drought and increase local water supplies.

However, scientists assert that the technique cannot create weather or trigger rainfall at the scale observed in countries like Germany and the United States.

“Due to the strong natural variability of clouds, there exists very little scientific proof that cloud seeding has indeed a measurable effect on precipitation,” stated Andrea Flossmann, co-chair of an expert team on weather modification at the World Meteorological Organization.

The impact of climate change

Experts agree that climate change has doubled the likelihood of floods in southern Brazil and worsened the intense rains caused by El Niño.

“There’s definitely a consensus that climate change is responsible for many of these extreme weather events,” said Mariana Madruga de Brito, a Brazilian scientist from Rio Grande do Sul, the state that suffered historic flooding in May.

She noted that people were posting photos of clouds on social media shortly after the floods, claiming they had been “fabricated” and questioning scientific institutions.

However, Madruga de Brito argued that cloud seeding cannot be causing events of this magnitude.

Reinforcing climate denial

Di Yang, an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, said extensive research over several decades has shown “no definitive large-scale or long-term impacts from cloud seeding.”

Yet, the technique remains a recurring target for climate skeptics. The AFP has debunked several false claims of weather manipulation after major floods in recent years.

Callum Hood, head of research at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said that as severe weather events become more frequent, climate deniers are putting extra efforts into claiming these extremes have nothing to do with climate change. “You see this every summer now.”

The broader picture

As more changes are recorded in seasons and ecosystems, Hood mentioned that “a slightly more conspiratorial and newer argument” is overtaking older narratives that simply deny Earth’s warming. These arguments attempt to attribute extreme weather events to geoengineering or other causes.

Lincoln Muniz Alves, a researcher at the Brazil National Institute for Space Research, emphasized that false narratives obstruct effective communication during environmental crises and “reinforce the views of those who deny the reality of climate change.”

Reality of climate change and flooding

Weather modification methods remain controversial in the scientific community due to potential unintended consequences such as excess rain and pollution. However, experts urge that such caution should not discredit the reality of the climate crisis.

“This focus on cloud seeding misses the larger picture – for more than a century, humans have been releasing greenhouse gasses that have warmed the planet and made heavy rain more likely in many regions of the world,” stated dward Gryspeerdt, a research fellow at Imperial College London‘s Grantham Institute.

“We are already manipulating the weather at a global scale larger than would ever be possible through cloud seeding.”

While cloud seeding is a topic of debate, the overwhelming scientific consensus points to climate change as the primary driver of the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events worldwide.

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