Radioactive fallout is rarely a good idea. But new research study recommends charged particles discharged from Cold War-era nuclear tests might have enhanced rainfall countless kilometers away from the screening websites, by triggering electrical charges in the air that triggered water droplets to coalesce.
The United States, Soviet Union, and other nations frequently tested nuclear weapons above ground in the 1950 s and early 1960 s. The fallout included a devil’s mixed drink of radioactive components that can have subtle effects in the environment. Charged particles released throughout radioactive decay can smack into surrounding atoms and molecules, ripping them asunder and producing even more charged particles. Then, that flurry of charged particles can glom onto dust, soot, or water beads in the environment, often making the droplets large enough to be up to the ground as rain.
To see whether above-ground nuclear testing really increased rains, University of Reading climatic scientist Giles Harrison and associates took a look at Cold War-era rains records from a weather station on a remote island north of Scotland … The group’s analysis suggests a strong link in between fallout and rainfall from 1962 through 1964, a period when fallout from above-ground screening of nuclear weapons was typically present in the stratosphere. At the Scottish website, clouds were thicker, and rainfall was 24%greater on days when above-average levels of fallout existed (as presumed from measurements of the atmosphere’s electric field), the researchers report in Physical Review Letters
The researchers think it might help us understand weather condition patterns on planets like Jupiter and Neptune with charged partciles in their atmosphere– and may even make it possible for small experiments in controlling the weather condition.
You can not have a science without measurement.
— R. W. Hamming