It only takes one rained-out Little League game to make a sports lover resent Mother Nature. Now some of today’s scientists and other bigwigs have taken it upon themselves to say: “no more.” Not content to stand idly by and let something as mundane as climate dictate the success of our sports games, they have instead turned to geoengineering – intentional manipulation of the Earth’s environment – to fight back.
Qatari engineers recently announced a project to develop solar-powered artificial clouds to shade the 2022 World Cup from the country’s unforgiving summer sun. One remotely steerable cloud comes with a hefty price tag – $500,000 – just to cool the field by 10 degrees.
This isn’t the first time humans have battled weather for the sake of a sporting event. Click through the gallery below to read more about Qatar’s clouds, Chinese rain-battling techniques and other ways geoengineering has been deployed for the love of the game.
Click to launch an in-depth look at sports’ craziest geoengineering projects.
Artificial Clouds In Qatar
Amid concerns that the Qatari summer heat could be dangerous for players and attendees of the
2022 World Cup, researchers at Qatar University have developed artificial clouds to shade the stadiums and training grounds. After it became clear that there were no plans to move the tournament to the winter, scientists developed them to battle summer temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the clouds has the potential to reduce the temperature on the field by 10 degrees. The clouds, which cost $500,000 each, are made of lightweight carbon and held aloft with helium. Solar-powered engines move them via remote control. According to developer Dr. Saud Ghani, head of the university’s mechanical and industrial engineering department, a prototype cloud should be ready for testing by the end of the year.
Cloud-Seeding In Russia
A lack of snow forced organizers of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics to
haul in load after load of snow by truck and helicopter from hundreds of miles away. Russia, determined not to let the same thing happen to them in 2014, will use cloud-seeding (in addition to stockpiling snow) to ensure they will have ample snow for their Games. This decision came out of a meeting between organizers of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the Vancouver Games. Cloud-seeding is a technique that involves shooting silver iodide and dry ice particles into clouds. This causes water vapor in the clouds to form ice crystals at temperatures they normally wouldn’t. Silver iodide, in particular, has a crystal structure similar to that of ice, giving water droplets something to latch onto. The crystals then quickly grow heavier and precipitate out.
Fighting Rain In China
It was a risky choice to plan the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics in a roofless stadium, summer being the rainy season and all. With the chance of rain on opening day at 50 percent, the Chinese were not about to leave the fate of their painstakingly crafted ceremonies up to chance. So they made plans to
shoot the rain out of the sky. The claim was that by using the same method as cloud seeding but shooting the clouds less intensely with the silver iodide, scientists might be able to dissolve the rainclouds. China has a history of cloud-seeding, and claims to have the world’s largest weather modification program, boasting not only planes but rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns in its arsenal. It reportedly launched over a thousand “rain dispersal” rockets the night of the ceremonies, successfully preventing a rain belt from reaching the stadium.
Planting Trees In South Africa
Noise pollution from
vuvuzelas aside, the 2010 World Cup was terrible for the environment. Its estimated carbon footprint was roughly as much as a year’s worth of emissions from one million cars, six times worse than the previous World Cup. To mitigate some of this damage, the South African government started a carbon-offset in Durban, one of the host cities. They planted over 82,000 trees in a buffer zone outside Durban with the hope that they would help absorb some of the carbon dioxide created as well as return some of the land to indigenous forests. The city of Johannesburg also started a tree-planting campaign leading up to the Cup, with a goal of 200,000 trees.
Heat From Sewage In Canada
For the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, athletes were housed in the Whistler Olympic and Paralympic Village. The Village, which was built to comply with green building standards, kept its athletes warm by
harnessing energy from a nearby wastewater treatment plant. It used a system that captured heat from sewage waste, a process that is more efficient than traditional geothermal energy because the sewage is warmer. The system is also flexible enough to produce both heating and cooling (though we’re betting the latter function didn’t get used much). Ninety percent of the Village’s heat came from this system, which does not produce greenhouse gases, making this the most environmentally-friendly use of resources we’ve seen yet.
Monkey Guards In India
Delhi authorities were concerned about native monkeys causing problems for spectators and athletes at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India. The monkeys had a history of stealing food from around the venues, riding the subways and even attacking humans. So the authorities harnessed the power of larger, meaner monkeys to combat the problem, employing a contingent of trained black-faced langur monkeys as
security guards. The naturally aggressive langurs were leashed and held back by trainers, only to be released on sight of the smaller monkeys. The simian guards patrolled the athletes’ housing and guarded the perimeter of the stadiums during events. Now that’s using resources wisely.