‘Geostorm’ Is Less Popular With Conspiracy Theorists Than the Government Was Expecting

Image: Warner Bros.

Dealing with weather control conspiracy theorists has been a regular issue for the National Weather Service, but with the release of Geostorm, the NWS has taken extra steps to address them. So far, those steps have been completely unnecessary.

Geostorm is a movie about weather-controlling satellites that get bored with combating climate change and decide to destroy the planet instead. It is currently rated as 11 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It is a disaster movie in more ways than one; after earning just $13.3 million in its opening weekend, current estimates suggest that the film could lose more than $100 million.

Perhaps most telling, though, is that even though the NWS prepared to deal with an influx of conspiracy theories about weather modification as a result of the movie, no one has bothered to ask about government weather control.

On Friday night, NWS forecaster David Roth tweeted an excerpt of the service’s official talking point about weather control.

In an email, Roth sent me a screenshot showing part of the email he received from NWS Public Affairs. The email notes that Geostorm may “generate an uptick in interest” about weather control, and advises meteorologists to not comment on the film directly.

A screenshot of an email NWS public affairs sent to employees at the agency.

But I asked NWS public affairs about the email and about whether it has received any recent questions about weather modification that reference Geostorm. It has received none: “We’ve received no public inquiries about weather modification this week,” a spokesperson told me in an email sent Saturday.

This lack of interest from the public is surprising, considering that the marketing for Geostorm suggests viewers will “discover the truth behind the world’s biggest conspiracy.”

Roth told me that people regularly ask the NWS about weather control on social media, but NWS policy is to not respond to these questions directly from its official accounts (such as Twitter’s @NWS and regional accounts like @NWSBoston).

Even though NWS hasn’t received any public questions about Geostorm, there have been at least a couple tying the movie to conspiracy theories on Twitter and Reddit.

While NWS didn’t issue an official public announcement about weather control on Friday, it has in the past. In 2009, former head of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic Research Richard Spinard released an announcement saying it does not engage in hurricane modification.

“NOAA does not support research that entails efforts to modify hurricanes,” Spinard’s statement reads. “It remains unclear if enough knowledge has been gained to make any new modification attempts practicable.”

NOAA actually did research hurricane modification from 1962 to 1983 in what the agency called “Project STORMFURY.” Researchers would release dry ice into the eye of a storm in hopes of disrupting the storm and weakening it.

According to Spinard, Project STORMFURY ended when researchers realized they knew too little about the atmosphere to make the project useful.

Arguably, geoengineering is the new face of weather control, but it’s a technology in its infancy. Geoengineering methods seek to fight climate change by launching reflective aerosol particles into the atmosphere, sending heat back to space. Millions of dollars have been raised to conduct geoengineering experiments, but that’s about the extent of its influence.

I’m not sure if it’s good or bad news that we’ve spent more money actually trying to influence the climate than we have on tickets to see a blockbuster movie about the concept.

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