Tests on nuclear weapons change rainfall patterns
The research comes from the University of Reading (UK) and it is based on data from weather stations. The historic data indicates that rainfall patterns in Scotland were impacted by charge in the atmosphere. The atmospheric changes led to the release of radiation, and these are associated with nuclear weapons tests performed during the 1950s and 1960s.
The reason for examining this location of the world was because the area of Scotland – the Shetland Islands – was relatively unaffected by anthropogenic (human created) pollution
during this timer period, which meant that a unique data set could be compiled.
Significantly these were not nuclear tests conducted in Europe; instead the climate impact arose from tests conducted in the U.S. and the former USSR.
Scientists drew upon historical records collected between 1962-64. For this, the researchers examined days with high and low radioactively-generated charge. This revealed that cloud formation was visibly thicker. This alteration with cloud formation led to 24 percent more rainfall, compared with typical levels, with the days where more radioactivity was recorded.
Commenting on the study findings, Professor Giles Harrison states
: “By studying the radioactivity released from Cold War weapons tests, scientists at the time learnt about atmospheric circulation patterns. We have now reused this data to examine the effect on rainfall.”
There is one benefit with the data. The research shows how electric ionization of clouds can alter the amount of rainfall and such data can assist with efforts designed to alter the climate in areas that are subject to excessive drought.
An alternation to weather patterns can be achieved through an electric charge modifying the way by which water droplets found within clouds collide and combine. This physical phenomenon can alter the size of droplets and thus influence rainfall.
The research has been published in
the journal Physical Review Letters
. The research is titled “Precipitation modification by ionisation.”
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