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Weather Wizards: Inside the Ongoing Effort to Master Mother Nature

Can science fight climate change by tinkering with the weather?

Last month, Cynthia Barnett, an unostentatious workhorse of an environmental journalist with an incredible track record for nailing issues of water security, released a new book that’s a bit of a departure from her previous works. Entitled Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, the tome is a curious exploration, not just of the science of rain, but what it means to us as a species on an emotive and anthropological level. A meditative and engrossing work of ranging non-fiction, peppered with fascinating anecdotes and solid insights, one of the most interesting sections of the book is on the little-known phenomenon of weather manipulation. Throughout history, people have sought to control their environment, and attempts to change the weather have come along with many of our breakthroughs in science and technology. And while the pursuit can claim a couple of partial successes, weather alteration is mostly characterized by a string of crazy failures and dangerous, unworkable ideas.

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With the tragic Moore, Oklahoma tornado one of the largest in history—if not the largest—it's easy to wonder if there's a connection to climate change, especially as we've just passed all-time record levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But the answer isn't so clear. While climate change is linked to a huge range of effects, from heat waves and drought to floods and hurricanes, there's much less known about tornadoes.

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People Are Awesome: This Woman Lost Her Legs in a Tornado to Save Her Children's Lives

When 175-mph winds threatened Stephanie Decker's small children, there was only one thing for her to do.


When tornadoes came ripping through middle America last Friday, the eye of one storm was headed straight for Stephanie and Joe Decker's house in Marysville, Indiana, a small town near the Kentucky border. By the time Stephanie got home and received Joe's text message telling her to head for cover, she had only minutes to get herself and her two children into the basement. Once there, the horror began.

The Deckers' "dream home"—a 8,000-square-foot mass of stone and brick—was no match for the tornado's 175-mph winds. Within minutes, it began crumbling, sending debris straight for the basement. As one particularly large piece of rubble headed straight for her 5-year-old daughter, Reese, Stephanie threw herself on Reese and her 8-year-old son, Dominic, covering them with her body until the storm passed. As she was pummeled by an entire house and its contents, Stephanie screamed to her children over and over, "We're going to make it."

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Midwest Superstorm Breaks Pressure Records

The "superstorm" that pummeled the Midwest earlier this week was record breaking. But was it any sign of climate change?


The massive, violent storm that lashed through the Midwest early Tuesday was the strongest ever in the region. That's according to Weather Underground's Jeff Masters, who wrote of it:

"Tornadoes, violent thunderstorms, and torrential rains swept through a large portion of the nation's midsection yesterday, thanks to the strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 24 tornado reports and 282 reports of damaging high winds from yesterday's spectacular storm, and the storm continues to produce a wide variety of wild weather, with tornado watches posted for Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, a blizzard warning for North Dakota, high wind warnings for most of the upper Midwest, and near-hurricane force winds on Lake Superior.

The mega-storm reached peak intensity late yesterday afternoon over Minnesota, resulting in the lowest barometric pressure readings ever recorded in the continental United States, except for from hurricanes and nor'easters affecting the Atlantic seaboard."

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