CBRN / HazMat Training Blog

Is the weather a secret weapon of war?

Written by Steven Pike on 20 November 2013

It sounds like the horrifying basis of a Hollywood science fiction film; controlling the weather to use as a powerful weapon of war.  But as a recently released book, Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism makes clear, this was seriously considered not long after the Second World War.

After the submission of a final report in January 1958, and just months after Sputnik’s launch, the chairman of a special committee on weather modification set up by President Eisenhower stated at a press conference that he suspected the “Soviets” had already begun a large, secret programme on weather control. Moreover, the years between the first hydrogen bomb tests and the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963 saw increased interest in large-scale, purposeful environmental modification. A group including the chief scientific advisor of each national defence organisation in the United States, Britain, Canada, France, and West Germany – known somewhat chillingly as the Von Kármán Committee – seriously discussed the implications of using the weather as a weapon.

Although this may now all seem like fanciful nonsense, it’s a fact that the recent chemical attacks in Syria were deliberately conducted under weather conditions that would have helped facilitate the spread of the agents, augmenting their terrible effects.  A UN report stated: “Weather information from Damascus on the morning of 21 August shows a falling temperature between 0200h and 0500h in the morning (Worldweatheronline.com). This means that the air is not moving from the ground upwards, but rather the opposite. Chemical weapons use in such meteorological conditions maximizes their potential impact as the heavy gas can stay close to the ground and penetrate into lower levels of buildings and constructions where many people were seeking shelter.”

Among many other capabilities, our PlumeSIM® software allows CBRN training instructors to set up a training exercise that generates ‘virtual’ weather conditions, including wind direction and speed.  So, whatever the real situation on the day of the exercise, the instructor can create his or her own scenario to help students to prepare for a broad range of events.


Topics: Tabletop / Virtual CBRNe Training, Wide Area / Live CBRNe Training

Steven Pike

Written by Steven Pike

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics (UK) Ltd. A graduate of the University of Hertfordshire, Steven has been awarded a number of international patents relating to the field of hazardous material training systems and technology.