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操控天气的卫星有可能实现吗?

更新时间:2018-2-10 12:00:26 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Will we ever have satellites that can control the weather?
操控天气的卫星有可能实现吗?

From Star Trek to The Jetsons, one of the hallmarks of an advanced civilisation is seen as the ability to control the weather. More recently, the film Geostorm portrayed a network of satellites designed to prevent catastrophic storms.

从《星际迷航》(Star Trek)到《杰森一家》(The Jetsons),先进文明的特点之一就是他们能控制天气。近期上映的电影《全球风暴》(Geostorm)则描述了为阻止灾难性风暴而设计的卫星系统。

As last year’s devastating Atlantic hurricanes demonstrated, we are at the mercy of the weather. Could we ever manipulate it from space?

正如去年那场大西洋毁灭性飓风所展示的那样,人类是任由天气摆布的。那么人类能否有朝一日能从太空操控天气?

The idea of tweaking the weather from afar is not as far-fetched as it sounds. As BBC Future reported in 2014, scientists have been on the case for years, albeit using planes rather than satellites. From 1962 to 1983, the American government ran Project Stormfury, which was an attempt to weaken tropical storms by flying aircraft into a storm and seeding it with silver iodide.

远程控制天气的想法可能并不遥远。2014年,BBC Future报道,科学家多年来一直在对这个课题进行研究,不过是使用飞机,而非卫星。从1962年至1983年,美国政府开展了代号为人工影响飓风的计划(Project Stormfury),使用飞机在风暴里播撒碘化银,尝试削弱热带风暴的威力。

Silver iodide is an inorganic compound used as an antiseptic. The theory was that the silver iodide would cause the supercooled water in the storm to freeze, thereby disrupting the internal structure of the hurricane.

碘化银是一种非有机化合物,被用作防腐剂。理论上,碘化银会促使风暴中的过冷水冻结,从而破坏飓风的内部结构。

However, it has since been discovered that storms do not contain sufficient supercooled water for cloud seeding to be effective. There was also the problem of scale. “The problem was that the small planes and macro-scale of the storms meant any attempts would be negligible,” says Chris Bell, a lecturer in meteorology at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

不过,当时人们就发现风暴里的过冷水不足以完成播云。另外还有规模的问题。"问题在于较小的飞机和巨型风暴意味着任何尝试都可以忽略不计,"英国东英吉利亚大学(University of East Anglia)气象学讲师克里斯·贝尔(Chris Bell)说。

Lasers are also being considered as a form of weather control, through laser inversion – the technique of using lasers to cool things down rather than heat them up. The process forms clouds and can even trigger lightning. “This is a new method based on ultra-fast, ultra-short laser pulses, which generate intense lasers that are low-energy as the pulse is very short,” says Jean-Pierre Wolf of the University of Geneva. This creates a spark in the atmosphere, which causes a shock that expels water droplets out of the way.

激光也被认为是操纵天气的一种方式。激光反转技术可以降低东西的温度。这一过程会形成云团,甚至可以触发闪电。"这种新的方法基于超快、超短激光脉冲,生成强大的超短、低能量激光,"日内瓦大学(University of Geneva)的让-皮埃尔·沃尔夫(Jean-Pierre Wolf)说。这会在大气层造成一点火星,它引起的震荡会让水滴偏离路线。

However, the problem, as with cloud seeding, is a question of scale. “We do not have the right laser and scale of lasers to do something dramatic in the atmosphere – we can create small cloud formations, but you would not see the clouds we produce,” admits Wolf. “There is a problem of scaling, such as creating a cumulous cloud, which is a kilometre long and spans over tens of kilometres. Then the question is whether it makes sense in terms of the energy you put into the system.”

不过,它和播云有相同的弊病,就是规模问题。"我们没有合适种类和规模的激光,无法在大气层引起巨大的变化——我们可以制造小云团,但是你看不到它。"沃尔夫承认,"存在规模化的问题,比如制造一公里长、数十公里宽的积云。问题在于,为此投入的能量是否有意义。"

Unfortunately, having satellites control the weather presents additional problems.

不幸的是,使用卫星控制天气还存在其他问题。

Not only would the satellites need technology onboard to monitor the weather and position themselves in orbit, they would also need to have more equipment to manipulate it, thus massively increasing their payload. “Bringing this kind of equipment onto a satellite always means huge effort in order to have the mass itself transported into space, and ensuring the performance and reliability is not easy,” says Andreas Lindenthal, chief operating officer of OHB Systems AG and sci-fi enthusiast since his childhood.

卫星不仅需要搭载天气监控技术,并把自己置于轨道中,还需要更多的操控天气的设备,这就会极大的增加卫星的负载。"把这类设备放到卫星上,意味着要投入巨大的努力,因为需要把设备运输到太空。另外,确保性能和可靠性也不容易,"OHB 系统公司(OHB Systems AG)的首席运营官安第列斯·林登塔尔(Andreas Lindenthal)说。他从小就是科幻迷。

If cloud seeding is used, then how satellites are resupplied will present problems. Satellites would have to be regularly resupplied with the necessary materials, which naturally creates logistical problems sending the resupply craft into space to restock the satellites, which is not economically viable. “It would be difficult and inefficient,” says Lindenthal.

如果使用播云技术,那么卫星的补给就会有问题。卫星需要定期补给必要的材料,这自然就会出现后勤问题,需要发射补给飞行器到太空。这在经济上不具有可行性。"难度很大,效率很低,"林登塔尔说。

Further, as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, ejecting cloud seeding canisters would tend to nudge the satellite out of its orbit, due to the reaction forces. It is also very difficult to get canisters to fall and release in the correct place, but the addition of guidance systems would add an extra level of complexity.

另外,任何行动都会有反作用。发射播云罐可能会导致卫星脱离轨道。让播云罐坠落到合适的位置并释放也非常困难。可以增加导向系统,但这又会增加复杂性。

Deploying laser inversion via satellites is more likely. Lasers do not need to be resupplied with materials and their power demands can be met through solar panels. “There are many examples in which lasers are being used for a very limited time, which means it is not in continuous operation,” says Lindenthal. “For example, there are ideas to remove space debris by flashing them with a laser.”

通过卫星部署激光反转的可能性较大。激光不需要材料补给,电能需求也可以通过太阳能板来满足。"在很多例子中,激光使用的时间非常有限,这意味着它无法连续运作。"林登塔尔说,"例如,有一个想法是用激光去除太空中的碎片垃圾。"

There is also the question of what would happen to weather-controlling satellites following a massive solar storm (also known as a Carrington-Type Event).  When a coronal mass ejection hits the Earth's magnetosphere, it can cause massive disruption to all electrical systems. The Carrington Event, which is the biggest solar storm on record, occurred in 1859. If and when a similar event occurred in modern times, all satellites and satellite-communications are likely to be lost, at least temporarily. Losing weather control satellites carries with it the risk of unfortunate meteorological repercussions.

还有一个问题就是,在大规模太阳风暴之后,天气控制卫星会发生什么。当冠状喷射物击中地球磁层时,可能会导致所有电子系统受到大规模干扰。历史记录上最大规模的太阳风暴就是发生在1859年的卡林顿事件(Carrington Event)。如果现代发生类似事件,所有的卫星和通讯卫星都会被毁坏,或者至少暂时无法使用。如果损失的是控制天气的卫星,那么将出现不幸的气象后果风险。

Concerns have been previously raised that controlling the weather could be used as a form of economic warfare, as well. During the Vietnam War, a top-secret project called Operation Popeye was used by the Americans to disrupt Vietnamese military supplies by increasing rainfall in the Laotian region through cloud seeding. Following the revelation, there has been an international ban against weaponising the weather under the Environmental Modification Convention.

此前有人忧虑天气控制技术有可能被用做经济战争的一种手段。在越南战争期间,美国的高度机密行动"凸眼行动"(Operation Popeye)通过播云的方法增加老挝地区的降雨,以扰乱越南的军事物资供应。在这一行动披露之后,国际社会就通过了《禁用改变环境技术公约》(Environmental Modification Convention)禁止把天气用作武器。

It could be argued that we already manipulate the weather, albeit to our detriment, through climate change. However, this shift in weather patterns was brought about through decades of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. This has resulted in changes to the widerworld’s weather patterns, rather than just isolated regions.

有人说我们可能已经在通过气候变化控制天气了,尽管这对人类是不利的。气候变化是数十年以来二氧化碳等温室气体排入大气层的结果。结果导致了世界范围内气候的变化,而不是仅限于个别地区。

Climate change highlights the scale at which controlling the weather will need to operate. The colossal size of weather fronts means that any effective weather modification system would require agreement on a global scale. There is also the danger that mitigating storms in one region could result in storms being created elsewhere.

气候变化显示出控制气候需要达到的规模。庞大的气候锋面意味着任何有效的天气调节系统都需要全球范围的一致行动。另外一个危险之处是一个地区削弱风暴可能会导致另一个区域风暴的形成。

For now, controlling the weather remains unlikely – too costly and resource-hungry to make practical. “People are putting research into very efficient lasers that can be put into orbit,” says Lindenthal. “For me, itis only a matter of time.”

目前而言,控制天气仍然不太可能——成本过高,资源不足,难以付诸实践。"人们正在研究可以送入轨道的高效激光,"林登塔尔说,"对我来说,这只是时间问题。"

“We may, one day, have the technology to control the weather,” adds Bell, “but it will be in thousands, not hundreds, of years.”

"有朝一日,我们有可能发展出控制天气的技术,"贝尔补充说,"但这可能需要数千年,而不是数百年。"

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