Using a chaos theory idea connected to the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, a team of researchers lead by the RIKEN institute in Japan has identified an experimental approach to regulate the weather itself.
That may seem like something out of a science fiction B-movie, but it’s peer-reviewed science.
The RIKEN team, on the other hand, is discussing a completely other degree of control.
According to the study paper written by the team:
We want to use “the control of chaos” to manage the weather… We’d like to be able to manage the weather within its natural fluctuation while also assisting human operations, such as moving the site of an intense rain zone to avert disasters without creating global climate change.
The control of chaos indicates that correct microscopic disturbances to the natural atmosphere modify the orbit of the atmospheric dynamics to a desired direction for extreme weather that happens in a chaotic manner under natural fluctuations.
We could use the control in the actual world if the correct tiny perturbations are within our engineering competence.
To get a sense of how difficult the “management of chaos” these experts are talking about, we’ll have to utilize arithmetic that only supercomputers can grasp.
Meteorologists are now using cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence and quantum computers to anticipate weather.
But, despite our best efforts, it remains extremely difficult.
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States of America:
A seven-day prediction can properly anticipate the weather around 80% of the time, whereas a five-day forecast can do so about 90% of the time. A 10-day—or longer—forecast, on the other hand, is only correct about half of the time.
So, how is chaos theory expected to improve our odds over a coin toss? The Butterfly Effect is at the root of everything.
According to the paper:
The “butterfly effect,” which Lorenz discovered in the 1960s, is a phenomena in which a small disruption, such as “a butterfly fluttering its wings in Brazil,” generates a large consequence, such as “a tornado in Texas.”
This extraordinary sensitivity results in chaotic behavior and an inherent limit to predictability, but it also allows us to construct an effective control… that is, we might use the “butterfly effect” to create an effective control with a sequence of microscopic interventions leading to a desirable future.
In essence, the researchers created extensive weather simulations before identifying key thermal windows when artificial temperature changes may affect the final outcome of a local weather system.
Instead of changing the climate, scientists would simply be turning just enough switches inside a local weather system — or getting enough butterflies to flap their wings in a different way, if you prefer — to get it to do something predictable.
This might aid in the evacuation of tornadoes, typhoons, and other severe storms from locations where they may cause harm to humans, as well as the mitigation of droughts and other long-term anomalous weather patterns.
However, the team is concerned about the possible consequences of using chaos theory to regulate the weather.
According to the findings:
We can’t be too careful about potential side effects, and we need to think about and address every possibility.
Fortunately for us all, the RIKEN team isn’t altering the weather in the actual world. All of their experiments have so far been carried out using supercomputer simulations.