Claims that former US military project is being used to manipulate the weather are “nonsense”

Claims that former US military project is being used to manipulate the weather are “nonsense”

What was claimed

The verdict

A former American military project known as HAARP is being used to manipulate the weather.

False. HAARP is a US research program that uses radio waves to study the ionosphere (Earth’s upper atmosphere) and cannot manipulate weather systems, which occur in the troposphere (Earth’s lower atmosphere), according to experts.

By Renee Davidson

A longstanding conspiracy theory that alleges a former US research project, HAARP, is being used to manipulate the weather has once again gained traction on social media. 

This time, social media users are spreading the conspiracy in the form of an image, with one post, shared by an Instagram account with more than 22,000 followers, amassing more than 5,000 likes.  

The text in the image reads: “For the pricetag of $80,000 - $100,000, there are multiple companies that guarantee rain-free wedding days around the world. 

“It’s done by aircraft spraying nano-sized heavy metals into the atmosphere, and then multi-trillion watt beams of electromagnetic frequencies from HAARP stations are aimed at the particles, enabling them to manipulate cloud cover, precipitation and more.” 

The image also contains two photographs, one of a wedding venue by the ocean and one of  condensation trails – line-shaped clouds also known as “contrails” or vapour trails – in the sky. 

Additional text in the image claims that contrails are a sign of weather manipulation: “Many people see these trails daily, which begs the question; who is engineering the weather when not for weddings?” 

Facebook post with text and picture of blue sky with plane trails and scene of wedding preparations on beach with red cross through image

Comments posted by Instagram users suggest that many believe the claim that HAARP is manipulating the weather, with some citing it as proof that climate change does not exist. Others refer to a similar baseless conspiracy theory that alleges contrails are biological or chemical agents used covertly by governments to poison or vaccinate populations. 

But the claims are false. HAARP has no effect on weather systems and contrails are a common byproduct of jet engines, according to experts consulted by RMIT FactLab. 

HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is a former US research project that used radio waves to study the ionosphere (Earth's upper atmosphere).

There is only one HAARP station, not several as claimed, and its operation was transferred from the US Air Force to the University of Alaska in 2015. 

Emeritus Professor Peter Dyson, an expert on the ionosphere at La Trobe University, told FactLab in an email that HAARP has “no effect” on weather systems.  

“HAARP transmits high power radio waves in the range 3 - 30 MHz [one million hertz] which are absorbed by the ionosphere, causing heating and turbulence in the ionospheric plasma,” Professor Dyson said. 

“The ionosphere extends upwards from about 60 km, well above Earth’s weather systems, so HAARP has no effect on weather systems,” he said. “HAARP heats the ionosphere at about 100 km and above depending on the transmitted frequency.”

He said HAARP transmitter power is not “multi-trillion watts”, as claimed in the image, but 3.6 megawatts, with the transmitted beam spreading out as it propagates. 

“By the time the signal reaches the ionosphere, the intensity of the HF [high frequency] signal is less than 3 microwatts per sq cm. Once the beam is turned off the heated region of the ionosphere soon returns to normal,” he said.

“HAARP is now a facility of the University of Alaska and searches of its website provide reliable information about HAARP that make it obvious that the various conspiracy theories are nonsense,” he said. 

Professor Steven Siems, an expert on cloud microphysics at Monash University and co-chair of the World Meteorological Organisation's Expert Team on Weather Modification, rejected the suggestion that HAARP was used to manipulate the weather. 

HAARP “works in the ionosphere, not the troposphere which accounts for our weather,” he said. 

In regard to contrails, he said “they have nothing to do with cloud seeding/weather modification”. “Contrails are a common enough by-product of jet engines at certain altitudes with the right amount of water vapour in the air,” he said.

“They are hardly a phenomena and have nothing directly to do with precipitation. You don't get precipitation from contrails,” he said. “Those contrails are in the upper troposphere, not the ionosphere, so they have nothing to do with HAARP.” 

FactLab found evidence of one company that offers “rain-free” weddings, which was reported on by various news sites in 2015. Luxury holiday company Oliver’s Travels, states on its website that it offers customers a “cloud-bursting” service that guarantees clear skies for wedding days. 

FactLab could find no evidence of it ever succeeding, nor of any other “rain-free” wedding services in existence.


The verdict

False. The former US research project HAARP cannot manipulate the weather, according to experts on the Earth’s ionosphere and cloud microphysics. HAARP uses radio waves to study the ionosphere (Earth’s upper atmosphere) and has no effect on weather systems, which occur in the troposphere (the lower atmosphere). Moreover, contrails are a common by-product of jet engines and have nothing to do with weather modification.


28 April 2023


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