Secret Weapon ? Conspiracy Theories Abound as US Military Closes HAARP

HAARP antenna array near Gakona, Alaska.

The U.S. Air Force has notified Congress that it intends to shut
down HAARP, a controversial Alaska-based research facility that studies an
energetic and active region of the upper atmosphere.

Conspiracy theorists are abuzz
about the news, given that HAARP (short for High Frequency Active Auroral
Research Program) has long been the center of wild speculation that the program
is designed to control the weather —
or worse. In 2010, Venezuelan leader Huge Chavez claimed that HAARP or a
program like it triggered the Haiti earthquake.


For the record, the Haitian quake
of 2010 was caused by the slippage of a previously unmapped fault along
the border of the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates.


HAARP is a research program
designed to analyze the ionosphere, a portion of the upper atmosphere that
stretches from about 53 miles (85 kilometers) above the surface of the Earth to
370 miles (600 km) up. The program has been funded by the Air Force, the Navy,
the University of Alaska and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency). [Top 10 Conspiracy Theories]


Why HAARP exists

U.S. military is interested in the ionosphere because this portion of the atmosphere
plays a role in transmitting radio signals. HAARP sends radio beams into the
ionosphere to study the responses from it — one of the few ways to accurately
measure this inaccessible part of the atmosphere.

operates out of the HAARP Research Station in Gakona, Alaska, where it has a
high-power radio frequency transmitter that can perturb a small portion of the
ionosphere. Other instruments are then used to measure the perturbations.

The goal of the program is to
understand the physics of the ionosphere, which is constantly responding to
influences from the sun. Solar flares can send solar particles racing toward
Earth, occasionally disrupting communications and
the electrical grid
. If scientists could better understand what
happens in the ionosphere, they might be able to mitigate some of these

the Air Force is no longer interested in maintaining HAARP, according to David
Walker, the Air Force deputy assistant secretary for science, technology and

a Senate hearing on May 14, Walker said the Air Force has no interest in
maintaining the site, and is moving in another direction in ionospheric

Politics and conspiracy

Air Force’s plan to destroy HAARP has detractors.

the Air Force neither wants nor appreciates the unique value of HAARP, users
from several federal agencies, laboratories and universities, and friendly
nations such as Canada, Britain, Taiwan, South Korea, Sweden and Norway, are
eager to use its unique resources, which would further spread American
influence and leadership,” Dennis Papadopoulos, a professor of physics and
astronomy at the University of Maryland, wrote in an outraged opinion piece in
the Alaska Dispatch.

HAARP cost more than $290 million
to build, much of it earmarked by late Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who had
great influence over the U.S. defense budget during his time in Congress. The
site was host to numerous projects over the years, including the creation of
the first man-made aurora in 2005.
The site’s generators now require remediation to meet the environmental
standards set in the Clean Air Act, an expense no one seems keen to
take on.

conspiracy theorists think HAARP’s purpose is far more sinister than meets the
eye. The program has been blamed for everything from global warming to natural
disasters to mysterious humming noises in the sky.

a natural phenomenon, and someone probably suspects HAARP of being behind it.
Online, conspiracy theorists suggest that HAARP was to blame for the 2011
earthquake and tsunami in Japan; the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado of 2013; a
landslide in 2006 in the Philippines; and many more natural disasters. Other
conspiracy theories hold that HAARP controls people’s minds or is capable of
altering the very fabric of reality.

theories have yet to subside, even though very little has been going on at
HAARP over the past year. In May 2013, the site shut down during a change in
operations contractors. At the time, the HAARP program manager told reporters
that the site was temporarily closed and locked, with only one DARPA project
left to wrap up by early 2014.   

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Original article on Live Science.