10. The Spectral Hound 1877 – 1962

A Study in Infra-Red

Part ten – The Spectral Hound

1877 - 1962

"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

     Dr. Mortimer in The Hound of the Baskervilles 

We have looked at two major forms of climate modification, Carbon Black (Soot) Dispersal and Cirrus Cloud Seeding, proposed in the period before the onset of global warming, as a means to melt the Arctic, warm the climate and avert a mini-ice age.

We shall see that these two methods originate from notions of warming the Arctic that have been entertained for a long time. In fact, international scientists and industrialists have been dreaming of it for over a 100 years. 

1877 - 1953

Harold Saive’s fascinating article reveals at length their large-scale geoengineering proposals. These include:

  • Channelling more of the warm Kuroshio Current through the Bering Strait to raise temperatures in the Polar region.

  • Exploding atomic bombs at an appropriate height above the polar regions to raise the temperature of the Arctic Ocean and warm the entire climate of the northern temperate zone.

  • Placing a ring of metallic potassium particles into Earth’s polar orbit to diffuse light reaching Earth and increase solar radiation to thaw the permanently frozen soil of Russia, Canada, and Alaska and melt polar ice.

  • Building a gigantic dam across the Bering Strait and using nuclear power–driven propeller pumps to push the warm Pacific current into the Atlantic by way of the Arctic Sea. Arctic ice would melt, and the Siberian and North American frozen areas would become temperate and productive.


1953 - 1962

In 1953, a President’s Advisory Committee on Weather Control was established to determine the extent to which the United States should experiment with, engage in, or regulate activities designed to control weather conditions. 

A US Navy officer, Capt. H.T. Orville, became chairman of this Advisory Committee.

He reported that the USSR “had conducted numerous unpublicized but still detectable experiments apparently aimed at finding ways to speed melting of polar icecaps; and has even offered to join the United States in a project to turn the Arctic Ocean into a sort of warm water lake by melting the polar icecap.


Here are some relevant excerpts from the paper that covered the history of these projects:

Weather modification the evolution of an R and D program into a military operation.

This project may have included the 1957 Soviet suggestion to “build a dam across the Bering Straight, to pump warmer Pacific water into the colder Arctic, and at times to reverse the flow  to "cancel out" the Greenland, Labrador and other cold ocean currents.”

“Such a scheme, which would have changed wind, rainfall, and climatological patterns across the entire western hemisphere and the entire northern hemisphere as well, can only be considered simple mindedness of the most heroic, epic, and monstrous proportions, in the very worst tradition of the attempt to apply any technology, without consideration of consequences.”

“As we will see, it was instrumental in prompting the largest weather modification R&D program in the Dept. of Defense. Besides that, it was the most excellent ammunition for those who were only too delighted to be able to point to a Soviet "weather threat."  “

Dr Edward Teller - a frequent participant of many of these campaigns - could serve up the following vision to a US Senate Preparedness Subcommittee: "Please imagine, a world ... where the  (Soviets) can change the rainfall over Russia ... and influence the rainfall in our country in an adverse manner."  

Dr Henry G. Houghton of the Dept of Meteorology, Masachusetts Institute of Technology, spelled out this image in somewhat more detail: I shudder to think of the consequences of prior Russian discovery of a feasible method of weather control. International control of weather modification will be essential to the safety of the world as control of nuclear energy is now.  Unless we remain ahead of Russia in meteorology research the prospects for international agreements on weather control will be poor indeed.”

“An unfavorable modification of our climate in the guise of a peaceful effort to improve Russia's climate could seriously weaken our economy and ability to resist.”

“An infinitely more balanced assessment in a military periodical in 1975 still put a heavy emphasis on Soviet efforts:  "Scientists, especially in the USSR, are working on methods for altering weather and climate.

“This branch of science has a vast potential for good -- as for catastrophe," and claimed that the Soviet weather modification program was the "busiest" in the world.”

“The Director of the Soviet Hydrometeorological Service has declared that active modification of climate is an objective of this research.  A number of specific projects have been proposed to alleviate the harsh Russian climate with attendant benefits to agriculture, navigation, and resource exploitation. These include removal of the Arctic pack ice, damming of the Bering Straits, and diversion of Siberian rivers.” (p14)

“These programs clearly might affect the climate of other parts of the world, including the United States and its allies. Even marginal changes in temperature and rainfall could drastically damage agriculture, shipping, and indeed the entire economy.  Military operations would also be impacted if the boundaries of pack ice, the ice-free seasons of naval bases, the frequency of obscuring clouds, etc. were altered.  Thus climatic changes are clearly potentially grave threats to national security, and have consequent implications for military planning.”

“The USSR has reported plans to divert the flow of some rivers from their present course which flows north and empties into the Arctic Ocean and instead to turn their flow south to the Aral and Caspian Basin. (110)  Diversion of this sort would mean that the fresh water that normally flows into the Arctic and freezes at a more rapid rate than salt water would no longer be available. (p31)

“These changes are large enough to raise possible implications in the area of climatic change and some initial calculations have suggested that diversion of the northward flowing rivers on a sufficiently large scale could initiate melting of the Arctic Ocean ice pack. (p32)

Other methods included:

Lowering the albedo and raising the temperature. One school of thought hypothesizes that such a change might result in an ice free Arctic during the summer.”

If this did occur, the semi-permanent low pressure belt, the subtropical high pressure belt and the inter-tropical convergence zone would experience a northward shift. If the general circulation was changed in this manner, the following climatic changes could occur: 

  • an increase of precipitation north of 70 degrees latitude; 

  • shift of monsoon rains into arid areas; 

  • melt of some areas of permafrost; 

  • decrease of precipitation in the zone between 40 degrees and 50 degrees north, with a probable increase in evaporation; 

  • some rise in sea level.

While the alterations which could result in these terminal changes could produce local benefits, they could also cause a dislocation of agriculture in the entire northern hemisphere and in three of the world’s major grain producing nations: the USA, Canada and the USSR, and a resulting possible disaster in many of the thickly populated, highly developed countries. This, in turn, would have unknown effects on mankind in general.

  • Today, we are already receiving warnings of an imminent ice free Arctic during summer.

  • The technical terms for the “belts” referred to above, are the Hadley cell, the Ferrel cell and the Polar cell. Together they constitute the Atmospheric Convection Cells. Several studies have linked a poleward expansion of the convection cells to global warming. Here is one and here is another, more recent, that links the expansion in the tropics to the shifting of high altitude (net-warming) clouds in the mid-latitudes towards the poles. A chicken and egg conundrum if ever there was one.

  • Northern regions such as Alaska are experiencing record warmth and precipitation. 

  • The warming has caused soil temperatures in the permafrost regions to increase about 1 to 3°C higher than long-term averages and in some areas, as predicted by the Russians above, close to 0°C. Areas of boreal forests are now referred to as ‘drunken forests’, and as it melts the trees fall over.

  • The drought experienced in the western and southwestern US, Mexico, Brazil, southwestern Australia, southern Africa, northern Africa, the mid-Mediterranean and southern Europe is believed by atmospheric scientists to be due to these regions lying on the edge of the planet’s mid-latitudes, again as predicted by the Russians. The scientists found that an expansion due to global warming in the Hadley cell resulted in the centre of the dry, sinking, high pressure air being shifted further polewards over a broader range to include those heavily-populated regions experiencing drought today. The tropics over the equator have become more humid, whilst the subtropics have become drier. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer as one scientist put it.

  • Melting land ice releasing water into the oceans, already expanding due to warmer temperatures, has led to sea level rises threatening 40% of the world’s population who live within 62 miles of the ocean.

Harry Wexler

One of the most prolific researchers, Harry Wexler, made his proposals at the same time the National Academy of Sciences was working to create a national weather modification program – a direction in which the military had already embarked in 1958:

  • To increase the global temperature of the Earth by 1.7°C, “by injecting a cloud of ice crystals into the polar atmosphere by detonating 10 H-bombs in the Arctic Ocean – the subject of his 1958 article in Science magazine” (Wexler H., 1958, “Modifying Weather on a Large Scale,” Science, n.s. 128 (Oct. 31, 1958): 1059-1063).

  • To diminish the global temperature by 1.2°C could be doable, “by launching a ring of dust particles into equatorial orbit, a modification of an earlier Russian proposal to warm the Arctic”.

  • To destroy the ozone layer and hence increase abruptly the surface temperature of the Earth, by spraying “several hundred thousand tons of chlorine or bromine” with a stratospheric airplane. Fleming, 2007(a), pp. 56-57; Fleming, 2007(b), “note n° viii” p. 9 & p. 5 (source)

The target global temperature increase of 1.7°C is curiously close to the limit of 2°C agreed during the recent Paris Climate Conference.

Atomic Footprints

Scientists’ actual attempts at using nuclear devices to test proposals to bring about warmer temperatures included:

Projects Argus in 1958 and Starfish in 1962 involved detonating nuclear bombs in the part of the lower Van Allen Belt closest to the earth's surface. This “injected sufficient electrons and other energetic particles into the ionosphere to cause world-wide effects. The electrons travelled back and forth along magnetic force lines, causing an artificial "aurora" when striking the atmosphere near the North Pole.

Officially, these experiments were to test the ionosphere, but how many bombs do you have to detonate before you gain an idea of how this layer of the atmosphere works? 

It is more likely that these were actual operations carried out in alignment with proposals to alter the upper atmosphere. The methodology could have been based on simulating and augmenting the effect of the solar wind on the upper atmosphere of the Arctic region.

Scientists today have confirmed that the solar wind, made up of energetic protons and electrons and spiralled along magnetic force lines to the poles, plays a role in destroying ozone by enhancing the generation of Nitric Oxide. The nitrogen gases are further mixed, by means of the polar stratospheric winds, with the ozone layer.

Solar wind hammers the ozone layer

Wexler suggested that damaging the ozone layer would abruptly increase the surface temperature of the Earth. 

It is assumed today that removal of ozone would result in a surface cooling. This is because the effect of the loss of ozone’s ability to trap outgoing IR energy would be greater than the temperature increase resulting from the additional UV radiation allowed through in its absence.

However, this does not take into account the effect that a cooling of the stratosphere would have on the increase in Polar Stratospheric Cloud (PSC) formation, amplified by aircraft emplacing great quantities of ice nuclei at that level.

Arctic ozone depletion and stratospheric temperature

Arctic ozone depletion and stratospheric temperature


PSCs would more than plug the hole as they trap greater amounts of IR energy than ozone, whilst at the same time allowing through the extra UV energy. This extra UV energy would be converted by the Earth into IR energy, significantly increasing the temperature as suggested by Wexler.

Since 1955, Russia has also carried out experiments of a similar nature in the Arctic, detonating devices in the atmosphere, underground and underwater.



Nuclear activities in the Arctic over the last 50 years

The underwater explosions may have had the intent of testing Wexler’s idea of “injecting a cloud of ice crystals into the polar atmosphere by detonating 10 H-bombs in the Arctic Ocean.

Footprints of Dust and Mist

In addition to channels, pumps, atomic bombs, rockets and particles, we have three methods proposed during this period of particular relevance to our study. These are altering albedo and cloud cover, and diverting warm waters further north.

  • Melting the Arctic and Greenland icecaps by spreading black coal dust on the ice. 

  • Creating cloud-cover across the poles to trap heat.

  • Diverting warm Atlantic waters into the polar regions. 

These schemes were taken seriously by Soviet climatologists. Two conferences were held in Leningrad in the early 1960s following an initial meeting in Moscow by the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1959.

To be continued in part 11.