Chaos theory hints for controlling the weather?

Science News -- April 4, 2022: Researchers have utilized computer models to show that weather events such as suddendownpours could be influenced by modest changes to specific weather system factors.

They did so by exploiting a chaos theory system known as a 'butterfly attractor,' in which a system can exist in one of two states — like a butterfly's wings — and swaps back and forth between them depending on slight changes in particular conditions.


Researchers have utilized computer simulations to illustrate that weather phenomena such as unexpected downpours might potentially be influenced by making tiny tweaks to key factors in the weather system as part of a project sponsored by the RIKEN Center for Computational Science. They did it by exploiting a chaos theory system known as a "butterfly attractor," in which a system can exist in one of two states — like a butterfly's wings — and switches back and forth between them depending on slight changes in specific variables.

While supercomputer-based models and data assimilation, which incorporates observational data into simulations, have improved the accuracy of weather predictions, scientists have long wished to be able to influence the weather. Due to climate change, which has resulted in more extreme weather occurrences such as heavy rain and storms, research in this area has increased.

Weather manipulation methods are currently available, however they have had mixed results. It has been proved that seeding the atmosphere to induce rain is possible, but only when the atmosphere is already in a state where it might rain. Geoengineering projects have been proposed, but they have not been implemented due to worries about unanticipated long-term consequences.

Researchers from the RIKEN team have used chaos theory to establish realistic possibilities for minimizing weather disasters like as heavy rain as a promising strategy. They've concentrated on a phenomena known as a butterfly attractor, which was proposed by Edward Lorentz, a mathematician and meteorologist who was one of the pioneers of contemporary chaos theory. In essence, this refers to a system that can choose one of two orbits that resemble butterfly wings, but can change the orbits at random based on slight system disturbances.

To carry out the research, the RIKEN team ran one weather simulation to act as "nature's" control, and then ran other simulations with small variations in a number of variables describing convection — how heat moves through the system — and discovered that small changes in several of the variables combined could lead to the system being in a certain state after a certain amount of time had passed.

The team was directed by Takemasa Miyoshi of the RIKEN Center for Computational Science "This opens the path to research into the controllability of weather and could lead to 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."

"We have built a new theory and methodology for studying the controllability of weather," he continues. "Based on the observing system simulation experiments used in previous predictability studies, we were able to design an experiment to investigate predictability based 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)."

"Looking to the future, he says, "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."

The work, published in Nonlinear Processes of Geophysics, was done as part of the Moonshot R&D Millennia program, contributing to the new Moonshot goal #8.

Story Source:

Materials provided by RIKEN. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Takemasa Miyoshi, Qiwen Sun. Control simulation experiment with Lorenz's butterfly attractor. Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics, 2022; 29 (1): 133 DOI: 10.5194/npg-29-133-2022

Cite This Page:

RIKEN. "Chaos theory provides hints for controlling the weather." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2022. .>

Wnctimes by Marjorie Farrington

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