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Newly-Developed Butterfly Attractor Helps Control and Change the Weather

Several years of global research have raised the question as to whether the weather can be controlled by humans. As per the study reported recently in the Nonlinear Processes of Geophysics journal, this may become a new reality.

Newly-Developed Butterfly Attractor Helps Control and Change the Weather.

Image Credit: Etienne Outram

Scientists from the RIKEN Center for Computational Science have made use of computer simulations to illustrate that it is possible to control and alter extreme weather phenomena by making small adjustments to variables in the weather system.

This was done using a system known as a “butterfly attractor” in chaos theory, which has one of two states—similar to the wings of a butterfly—and shifts back and forth between the two states based on small changes in a few conditions. The findings of the study encourage several applications in the future, where weather events could be better controlled, such as the impacts of climate change.

Initially, the butterfly attractor was suggested by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz, who is one of the founders of modern chaos theory. Lorenz stated that even the tiniest, butterfly-scale variations to his computer weather models resulted in a range of weather results from bright skies to raging storms, having no means to forecast the final result.

When Lorenz first presented his study in 1972, his theory regarding the butterfly effect came to be extensively famous and remains so even today. It encompasses the metaphor that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can result in a tornado in Texas.

Designed “Nature” and Weather Control

The research group from RIKEN started to analyze Lorenz’s chaos theory to make realistic possibilities for reducing weather events like torrential rain. They ran one weather simulation to serve as “nature” itself (the control) and then ran other simulations with the help of small variations in variables explaining the convection. This is how heat moves via the system.

The researchers found out that they could regulate “nature” to stay in a selected regime without moving to the other, that is, in a selected wing of Lorenz’s butterfly attractor, by adding small modifications to “nature”.

We have successfully built a new theory and methodology to study the controllability of weather. Based on observing the system simulation experiments used in previous studies, we were able to design an experiment to investigate predictability, on the assumption that the true values (nature) cannot be changed, but rather that we can change the idea of what can be changed (the object to be controlled).

Takemasa Miyoshi, Research Lead, Center for Computational Science, RIKEN

A Future with Weather Control Technology?

Even though weather predictions have reached high levels of precision as a result of supercomputer-based simulations and data assimilation, researchers for the longest time have hoped to be able to regulate the weather.

Additionally, climate change has intensified study in this region since the growing threat of extreme weather events like storms and torrential rain.

Takemasa Miyoshi states that this study sets the stage to research into weather controllability and could soon result in weather control technology.

If realized, this research could help us prevent and mitigate extreme windstorms, such as torrential rains and typhoons, whose risks are increasing with climate change.

Takemasa Miyoshi, Research Lead, Center for Computational Science, RIKEN

Takemasa Miyoshi added envisioning the future, “In this case, we used an ideal low-dimensional model to develop a new theory, and in the future, we plan to use actual weather models to study the possible controllability of weather.”

Journal Reference:

Miyoshi, T & Sun, Q (2022) Control simulation experiment with Lorenz’s butterfly attractor. Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics.

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