Luxury holiday company Oliver’s Travels is offering a £100,000 service to ensure the rain keeps away on a couple's big day. Their rain-free guarantee includes an exemption clause for natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
The technique behind the god-like offer is also known as cloud-seeding, a practice conceived in the 1940s and developed in the 1960s, in which clouds are laced with a compound called silver iodide which aims to induce rainfall. Silver iodide acts as a freezing nuclei, a key component in the formation of precipitation. Water vapour molecules collide with it and turn into ice crystals that, in theory, should fall to earth as rain. In practice, however, this practice proved better at preventing rain than inducing it. Why? Because the drops of water that fall from seeded clouds are often so small that they evaporate on the way down.
Cloud-bursting has been used for agricultural and even military purposes (the US attempted to extend monsoon to flush out the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war), but this seems to be the first commercial, consumer-facing offer.
Image: dominiqueb / Flickr
As with all geo-engineering projects, 'weather at will', and for private purposes, is an idea that could be dangerous at scale.
Some applications will be intended to harm: if one of the earliest uses was to flood out the enemy, then it's a small step to weather-based terrorism and other forms of violence. Burst clouds above an area in drought would be deadly.
And as with all complex ecosystem, there's the risk of unintended and unexpected outcomes.