GREEN
08/31/2011 12:58 pm ET | Updated Oct 31, 2011

Firing Laser Beams Could Make It Rain, Study Says

While man's attempts to manipulate the weather can be traced throughout history, now scientists at the University of Geneva have successfully tested out a rainmaking technique triggered by shooting laser beams into the sky, reports The Guardian.

Published in Nature Communications Journal, the experiment entailed firing laser beams into the air, which formed nitric acid molecules and drew condensation for water molecules, according to The Telegraph.

The researchers spent 113 hours shooting laser beams across Switzerland's Rhône river. Though the experiment didn't bring about water drops big enough to qualify as actual rain, Wired reports the effects of the lasers were substantial enough for scientists to continue further work on laser-assisted water condensation.

Jérôme Kasparian, a physicist at the University of Geneva who led the study, told Fox News, "We are still far from laser-induced rainmaking." Though the lasers brought about condensation and water particles the size of a few microns, according to Kasparian, "They should be 10 to 100 times larger to produce actual rain."

But this isn't the first time scientists have induced rain. Wired explains weather modification techniques -- known as cloud seeding -- have been around for some time and involve shooting hazardous chemicals into the air, such as silver iodide. Too much of the substance can cause "iodism, which manifests as skin rashes, headaches, anemia, irritation of mucous membranes and depression."

Unlike silver iodine, one of the major benefits to using lasers to assist in water condensation is control. "You can also turn the laser on and off at will, which makes it easier to assess whether it has any effect," Kasparian tells Wired.

If further breakthroughs are made with laser-assisted water condensation, it could help bring about rain in arid regions of the world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world has become more drought-prone over the last 25 years, and will see an increased frequency of droughts in the future. Given that Texas is experiencing its worst drought since the 1950's, and the Somalia's drought has put 10 million lives at risk, this rainmaking technique could prove to be quite timely.

----