HAARP: A conspiracy for every occasion

By: christian haag&
October 2 2023

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HAARP: A conspiracy for every occasion

Part of the antenna array at the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If you read social media at the time of a natural disaster, be it a tropical storm, earthquake, or flood, you will most likely come across claims about the disaster not being natural but human-made. HAARP is a common catch-it-all phrase in this instance, being the target of blame for next-to-all-natural phenomena that are strange or cause untold harm to human lives. But what exactly is HAARP?

What is HAARP?

HAARP, or the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a research facility in Alaska linked to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The facility is a large array of antennas that use high-frequency transmissions to study the ionosphere, the boundary between the Earth's lower atmosphere and the vacuum of space. This is also where the aurora borealis occurs. The facility is a so-called ionosphere heater that measures radio waves in this part of the atmosphere. It was built due to the ionosphere's significance for radio communications. Construction began in 1993 after a proposal by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. In 2015, responsibility for HAARP was transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

However, it is also linked to many conspiracy theories. The most widespread claim is that HAARP can affect the weather, induce natural disasters, and control humans. Thus, HAARP is commonly referred to as a reason for specific natural disasters, such as the 2023 earthquake in Turkey and Syria and, more recently, the earthquake in Morocco, floods in Libya and Greece, and wildfires. Notably, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, blamed the U.S. for creating the Haiti earthquake in 2010 using a “Tectonic Weapon.” Venezuelan media reported that it may have been the work of HAARP. 

Not a HAARP cloud or weather-making machine, but NASA’s RS 25 engine, tested before being used to propel space shuttles. 

The claims are often conjoined with climate skepticism, attributing natural disasters to HAARP rather than global warming or the changing climate. It is often connected with climate skepticism, claiming that climate change is not real but that the U.S. government or global elites are facilitating or accelerating “the climate change agenda” to introduce new tyrannical control measures by the New World Order. 

How the conspiracy plays out in social media 

HAARP is more often than not brought up as an explanation for climate disasters, claiming they are human-made. On TikTok, the hashtag “Haarp” has 432 million views, “Haarptechnology” has 4 million, and “haarpproject” has 2.8 million, and all are steadily growing. Many videos focus on the sky showing contrails and claiming they are chemtrails, unnatural clouds, or strange weather patterns. Frequently, theorists claim different kinds of unrelated equipment, facilities, and installations are “new HAARP machinery.” 

Not a HAARP machine, but the Sea-based X-Band (SBX), a radar station situated on top of an oil-rig platform. It is used for missile defense and tracking ballistic missiles. 

It is not unusual for conspiracists to connect HAARP to space-related organizations such as NASA or observatories and research stations worldwide. Logically Facts has previously debunked the claim that the Swedish LOIS project and EISCAT collaborated with HAARP to create a weather weapon. EISCAT, a non-profit scientific association that operates radar facilities in Finland, Norway, and Sweden to study the atmosphere, ionosphere, and near-earth space, has no formal connections or collaborations with HAARP.

Actual weather modification?

Putting HAARP and chemtrails aside, can humans affect the weather? The answer is yes, to an extent, and it depends on the definition. Cloud seeding is an actual thing, but not in the sense that conspiracy theorists argue that it is used to create tropical storms or poison humans with heavy metals. The first experiments were conducted in 1946 by Vincent J. Schaefer. Since then, numerous trials have been carried out, from aircraft to rockets and cannons with different chemical substances to create precipitation. So far, the most effective have been carbon dioxide and silver iodide. Military experiments have been conducted, such as during the Vietnam War when the U.S. military tried to create sufficient rainfall to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines under Operation Popeye, but to little avail. In 1977, the U.N. banned militarised weather modification.

Not a HAARP machine, but a 3,000-ton regenerator transported to a Nigerian petroleum refinery in 2021. 

Several states in the U.S. have tried to use cloud seeding to enhance rain and snowfall to combat droughts for over 20 years, as have China, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. The UAE began its cloud seeding project in the 1990s to meet the increased demand for water as the country’s urban expansion grew and to rely less on desalination plants. However, its success is not clear-cut. In 2021, Israel canceled its 50-year-old cloud seeding program due to costs, and in 2019, Dubai was flooded due to heavy rains that may have been caused by cloud seeding. In 2008, ahead of Russia Day, the Russian Air Force dropped a 25 kg sack of cement on a house in a Moscow suburb that was meant to be used along with silver iodide and liquid nitrogen to clear the clouds above Moscow to prevent rain from spoiling a public holiday. 

Logically Facts contacted Kevin Noone, Professor in Chemical Meteorology at the Department of Environmental Science (ACES) at Stockholm University, to discuss the possibility of weather modification. He said, “We have no robust statistical evidence that the manipulations we have tried so far have worked. In very special conditions, you might be able to change a cloud and make it rain - but doing that and counting on it, and that we can do it whenever or wherever that is not possible. The correct conditions are not found everywhere. Along the Rocky Mountains, you can make a cloud rain once and not the other day, as conditions are slightly different. The idea that we are capable of modifying large-scale natural processes to suit our needs is arrogant.” 

Apart from cloud seeding, are there other ways humans can affect the weather? It is important to make the distinction between humans directly and indirectly affecting the weather. HAARP conspiracy theorists argue that the facility has a direct and calculated ability to influence the weather by creating natural disasters at will, but experts state that this is impossible. However, if we take global warming into account, humans have indirectly and partly unknowingly modified the weather. Kevin Noone agrees with this but adds, "We have very knowingly modified the climate since the beginning of the 2000s, at least from a scientific perspective.” 

Since the middle of the 19th century, atmospheric CO2 has increased, as proven by the Keeling Curve. This increase has been attributed to human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, which has heated the planet and caused the greenhouse effect. Warmer temperatures have, in turn, modified the weather. Reduction in snow and glaciers, heavy increase in rainfall, and change of habitat for flora and fauna are examples of how global warming, induced by humans, has modified the weather. In a recent example, hurricane Daniel, which struck the Eastern Mediterranean, is believed to have been fueled and enhanced by the warm water off the coast of Libya, making it stronger and deadlier. Humans can thus affect the weather, albeit indirectly, and not in the sense argued by HAARP conspiracy theorists. This human influence can lead to storms due to global warming but cannot cause earthquakes.


But why do conspiracy theorists target an ionosphere research facility? Bjørn Are Davidsen, editor at Norwegian fact-checking site Fagsjekk.no, told Logically Facts, “I think this has become so central because so many conspiracy theories are about a power behind the power, a Deep State that governs and controls us. They need something that gives them a ‘credible’ opportunity, and it's hard to find something more grand and mysterious than HAARP that also looks good in pictures.”

Asbjørn Dyrendal, a Professor in History of Religion at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who has done extensive research on conspiracy culture and religion, writes that conspiracism, or the encompassing beliefs in conspiracy theories, has been seen as a "continuation of religious modes of thinking.” Humans have a desire to explain the unexplainable. Historically, it has been the work of religion to provide explanations to comprehend and grasp strenuous events. 

There are several overlapping traits between religion and conspiracism. Both try to explain evil, promote narratives about the hidden and intentional agency behind large-scale events, and attempt to reveal evil hidden plans. HAARP, as such, might be a response to understanding natural disasters and phenomena, as what was previously explained by “God's will” is now explained by the unknown will of global elites.

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