The Outside Prognosticator: The Chicken Little Machine

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

The Outside Prognosticator: The Chicken Little Machine

Just when you thought the weird weather of recent years was simmering down, 1995 had TV forecasters quaking under their shoulder pads again. As 1996 kicks off, prepare to hear more about a mysterious Defense Department installation--the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program--that for conspiracy theorists is replacing global warming as the alleged cause of it all. Last June, Militia of Montana spokesman Robert Fletcher flatly informed a Senate subcommittee that HAARP is a weather-tampering plot, "and we have the documents to prove it." Entertainingly, while such paranoia is doubtlessly misguided, HAARP sure sounds like a conspiracy. A $60 million research complex perched in remote northern Alaska, HAARP converts electrical energy into pulsed radio waves that can travel thousands of miles over and through the Earth. Whuffo? It's stated purpose for '96 is "earth penetrating tomography"--using extremely low-frequency waves to identify underground objects, possibly other countries' nuclear-arms caches. But some non-kook observers think HAARP could also be used to created local weather "disturbances."

"I don't believe HAARP is causing weather anomalies yet," says Nick Begich, an Anchorage-based volunteer with the watchdog group No HAARP. "But I also don't think the militia was wrong to sound the alarm."

If it quacks like a duck," says Bernard Eastland, a physicist who helped develop HAARP and who believes it may have weather-altering potential, "there's a good chance it's a duck."

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