Science

HAARP ionospheric research program set to continue

HAARP operational site on the edge of Denali State Park northeast of Anchorage, Alaska (Photo: HAARP)
HAARP operational site on the edge of Denali State Park northeast of Anchorage, Alaska (Photo: HAARP)
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HAARP's VHF relative ionospheric opacity meter antenna array (Photo: HAARP)
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HAARP's VHF relative ionospheric opacity meter antenna array (Photo: HAARP)
Northeast corner of the HAARP antenna array (Photo: HAARP)
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Northeast corner of the HAARP antenna array (Photo: HAARP)
HAARP's research control center (Photo: HAARP)
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HAARP's research control center (Photo: HAARP)
HAARP operational site on the edge of Denali State Park northeast of Anchorage, Alaska (Photo: HAARP)
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HAARP operational site on the edge of Denali State Park northeast of Anchorage, Alaska (Photo: HAARP)
Broadband high frequency receiving antenna enabling study of the HAARP RF energy that is reflected from the ionosphere (Photo: HAARP)
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Broadband high frequency receiving antenna enabling study of the HAARP RF energy that is reflected from the ionosphere (Photo: HAARP)
HAARP's diagnostic instrument Pad 3 houses magnetometers, telescopes, and other instrumentation to analyze HAARP's effects on the ionosphere (Photo: HAARP)
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HAARP's diagnostic instrument Pad 3 houses magnetometers, telescopes, and other instrumentation to analyze HAARP's effects on the ionosphere (Photo: HAARP)
The HAARP facility includes a modular UHF ionospheric radar (Photo: HAARP)
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The HAARP facility includes a modular UHF ionospheric radar (Photo: HAARP)
Diagnostic instrument display area, where HAARP's latest measurements are examined (Photo: HAARP)
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Diagnostic instrument display area, where HAARP's latest measurements are examined (Photo: HAARP)
Dome and building containing optical ionospheric analysis equipment (Photo: HAARP)
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Dome and building containing optical ionospheric analysis equipment (Photo: HAARP)
HAARP's operational power plant is self-contained, including six locomotive engines linked to electric generators (Photo: HAARP)
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HAARP's operational power plant is self-contained, including six locomotive engines linked to electric generators (Photo: HAARP)
HAARP's 3.6 megawatt high frequency RF transmitter (Photo: HAARP)
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HAARP's 3.6 megawatt high frequency RF transmitter (Photo: HAARP)
Geometric modulation allows HAARP to generate time-varying ionospheric excitation (Image: Stanford University)
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Geometric modulation allows HAARP to generate time-varying ionospheric excitation (Image: Stanford University)
Multiple hopping of HAARP signal when injected into the magnetosphere (Photo: Stanford University)
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Multiple hopping of HAARP signal when injected into the magnetosphere (Photo: Stanford University)

Reports that the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) had been shut down permanently were apparently a bit premature. According to HAARP program manager James Keeney, the facility is only temporarily off the air while operating contractors are changed. So why does anyone care? Despite being associated with various natural disasters over the past two decades by the conspiracy fringe, HAARP is in reality a facility for studying the ionosphere. Let's take a look at the goings on at HAARP – past, present, and future.

HAARP was established in 1993 by the US Air Force, the US Navy, DARPA, and the University of Alaska. Located outside of Gakona, Alaska, the facility houses a high frequency (HF) transmitter together with a phased-array antenna to focus and direct the radiated RF power. The transmitter is roughly as powerful as the largest military radars, generating up to 3.6 MW of RF power in the 2.8 to 10 MHz band. HAARP is restricted to operations only at specified frequencies in this band.

Power isn't everything

Northeast corner of the HAARP antenna array (Photo: HAARP)
Northeast corner of the HAARP antenna array (Photo: HAARP)

The power isn't what makes HAARP different. Rather, the credit for that goes to HAARP's phased array antenna. Consisting of 180 individual dipole antennas placed in a field roughly 13 hectares (33 acres) in size, this antenna array acts as a highly directional antenna, with a beamwidth of about five degrees. By the time the RF energy reaches the ionosphere (say, at an altitude of 200 km /124 mi just for this example), the size of the radiated spot is about 18 km (11 mi) in diameter, and the power density is roughly 14 mW/sq m. As the ionosphere is opaque in HAARP's frequency band, it absorbs nearly all of the incident power.

A tricky point, the misunderstanding of which has led to various HAARP conspiracy theories, is the difference between radiated power and effective radiated power. HAARP's radiated power, the amount of actual RF power it can emit, is 3.6 MW. However, because HAARP's antenna focuses the radiated power on a small portion of the ionosphere, the power density on that spot is much larger than would result if HAARP's antenna were non-directional so that its RF power were directed uniformly in all directions.

A fictional "effective radiated power" can be calculated, which is the power that would have to be sent through a non-directional antenna to provide HAARP's power density to the entire sky. This value is about 5.8 GW. The value is much larger than HAARP's actual RF power, as only 0.06 percent of the sky is illuminated by HAARP's antenna. But the effective radiated power appears in many conspiracy theories simply as a scary large number.

How big is the actual power density in HAARP's ionospheric spot? The total irradiance of the Sun's electromagnetic radiation (everything from x-rays to extremely low frequency (ELF) radio signals) is 1,360 W/sq m, measured by satellite outside the bulk of the Earth's atmosphere. HAARP's power density is about 0.001 percent of the Sun's irradiance – a nearly negligible quantity. Further, while local heating of the ionosphere is caused by HAARP (indeed, that is HAARP's purpose), the overall effect is rather like focusing the Sun's light using a magnifying glass – impressive if one is an ant, but not very significant on larger size scales.

Geometric modulation allows HAARP to generate time-varying ionospheric excitation (Image: Stanford University)
Geometric modulation allows HAARP to generate time-varying ionospheric excitation (Image: Stanford University)

HAARP is designed to test the response of a patch of the ionosphere at varying altitudes to the application of a few mW/sq m excitation in the high frequency (HF) radio band. One known effect is the generation of extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves through modulated heating. By turning the HAARP array off and on (or more simply, by wiggling the focal point around in a repetitive pattern, a procedure known as geometric modulation), the local ionospheric temperature rises and falls, changing the conductivity in that portion of the ionosphere at whatever frequency corresponds to the pattern. The frequencies are typically in the vicinity of a few to a few hundred Hertz.

HAARP is located where large natural electrical currents flow through the atmosphere. This auroral electrojet flows from the position of the Sun at noon to the position of the Sun at midnight in the north and south polar regions of the ionosphere. The flowing currents circle the poles, rather than passing over them, and may be thought of as sheets of current with a typical current density of 1-2 amperes per meter.

Given HAARP's spot size of about 18 km, the heated region has passing through it a current of about 30 kA, depending on geomagnetic conditions. When the ionospheric conductivity changes from HAARP's transmissions, the current in and around the spot also changes its distribution. That makes the region near the spot an antenna that radiates ELF radio waves from the ionosphere. HAARP is not, however, an efficient source of ELF radiation – starting with 3.6 MW, the yield of ELF radio waves is less then 10 W.

What can you do with 10 W of ELF radio waves? Well, a typical ELF submarine communication system uses several megawatts of ELF RF power with a frequency of 70-90 Hz. This is directed into the surface of the Earth at points separated by about 50 km (31 mi) in order to use a large area of the Earth's crust as a transmitting antenna. Despite the huge power and massive antennas, the actual transmitted power of such a system is only a few watts. So one reason for HAARP's development was to prototype a (relatively) small ELF transmitter.

Magnetospheric wave injection

Another phenomenon studied by HAARP is called magnetospheric wave injection. While most of the ELF waves generated in the ionosphere by HAARP are directed down toward the Earth's surface, a small fraction leaks into the surrounding magnetosphere. In the inner magnetosphere, wave interactions are dominated by the Earth's static magnetic field. Most study has been directed to a whistler-mode instability. Imagine you have a PA system with the volume turned up just short of the point when spontaneous feedback will occur. If you whisper into the microphone, you will hear your amplified whisper. However, immediately on speaking loudly into the microphone, your voice will be drowned out by feedback at the characteristic frequency of the PA system. The potential power output of the PA was always available, but requires a small push to tilt the system into runaway feedback. This behavior is rather like that of a whistler-mode instability.

Multiple hopping of HAARP signal when injected into the magnetosphere (Photo: Stanford University)
Multiple hopping of HAARP signal when injected into the magnetosphere (Photo: Stanford University)

Non-linear magnetospheric amplification of such waves can be caused by resonant interactions with energetic electrons. This being a non-linear interaction, one of the signatures is a change of the frequency of oscillation. The one-hop (Alaska to the South Pacific) and two-hop waves (back to Alaska) detected at the surface both show non-linear smearing of the wave frequency as well as amplification from the whistler-mode instability. It appears that the magnitude of the amplification has not been firmly established, but it is not enormous.

Ionospheric and magnetospheric structures and effects are the subject of ongoing study at HAARP, with a number of experiments being scheduled for later this year. Hints of interesting behavior have emerged, such as the possibility of generating ELF radio waves at times when the auroral electrojet has very little current, suggesting that interesting physics is yet to be discovered and understood.

Mind control and earthquakes

Getting back to the conspiracy theories for a moment, these come in a plethora of bizarre and unfounded varieties. To name just a few, HAARP is accused of triggering earthquakes by lifting the ionosphere over a tectonically active region, then letting it fall so that the pressure wave will trigger the earthquake. There are two problems with this. First, HAARP is pretty well limited to heating the ionosphere directly over its physical location. Second, a falling object can at best deliver the energy that went into lifting it. As we know that energy was delivered via a 3.6 MW RF beam, it seems incredibly unlikely that an earthquake could be triggered by turning off HAARP. Mind control is also supposed to be within HAARP's capabilities. This would be accomplished by altering the 7.8 Hz Schumann resonance, which is the Earth's lowest frequency electromagnetic resonance. After stating as fact a totally evidence-free relationship between life itself and the Schumann resonance, one conspiracy theorist says that "1,700 billion watts" will apparently drive HAARP's mind-altering effect. That is a rather remarkable claim, as HAARP's maximum power is about one-five-hundred-thousandth of that amount. And don't forget the claim that HAARP caused Hurricane Sandy, triggered massive tornado activity, and brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11. Personally, I don't intend to lose much sleep over the dark side of HAARP.

According to HAARP program manager James Keeney, the "Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is expected on site as a client to finish up some research in fall 2013 and winter 2014." The temporary shutdown was described as being due to "a contractor regime change." The Alaska Native corporation Ahtna, Incorporated is reportedly in talks to take over the facility administration contract from Marsh Creek, LLC. I am sure that the new operators will continue to keep us in touch with what really happens at HAARP.

Sources: American Radio Relay League, The Alaska Dispatch, and Magnetospheric Wave Injection by Modulated HF Heating of the Auroral Electrojet (PDF)

27 comments
MBadgero
Thank-you for filling us in on what HAARP is and what it doesn't do.
MD
Yep thanks for the info... the science is interesting, though limited in usefulness. So what does HAARP really do. (The new contractors will sign thousands of pages of confidentiality agreements with severe penalties, so they won't tell us.) I'm sure a lot of that is still classified, or have they started offering guided tours??, nect tell us what pine gap "really" does. (Sure everyone knows what we have been told it does....)
Matt Fletcher
No offense Brian but I think there were a few things left out about the capabilities of HAARP and the science involved with transferring magnetic energy through resonance and the affects it can have. I am not going to expand into a scientific argument but I will say that if it weren't able to do anything in the last 20 years do you thing the DOD would be signing a new contract to keep running it or would they drop it and leave it to NASA. Most advanced nations (Russia, USA, Australia, Germany, China, & Japan) seem to have built or are building similar stations run by their defense departments as well (strictly for research purposes only of course). I would also like to add that I am glad the USA has it because I live in the USA and HAARP (much like nuclear weapons) works as a deterrent against certain types of attacks. It also appears HAARP is not the only such system the USA has (look into that if you'd like.) If you want to know the true potential of such devices read what Tesla developed and said about them. Of course that's probably just a giant waste of time because that guy was just a joke right, what did he ever do. Him, Einstein, Edison, Schumann and others of that time didn't know anything because they lived in the dark ages before modern technology.
Mirmillion
Yes, there are good reasons for HARP to be close to the origin of the earth's lines of flux. Of course, research there is a little more varied than the publicly available "news" would indicate. Its not hard to imagine electromagnetic and gravity-based research and their derivatives, such as delivery systems and both communication and radar shields. We can only hope that advances in knowledge and development of real world applications are for the benefit, rather than demise, of the planet.
Ben O'Brien
That was an interesting article though it could have been better if there was more layman's terms and simpler explanations. As Einstein said you don't understand something till you can explain it to your grandma (not fellow engineer who already comprehends it). How about next you do chemotrails.
Liaquat Ali
My worst fear is that, it might somehow trigger the amplification of the energy radiated from the sun, through the ionosphere into the ozone layer like a chain reaction, which in turn might cause depletion or annihilation of the ozone layer, hence turning the planet into a junior Mars. So please exercise extreme caution while conducting such type of experiments for the sake of humanity.
J. LightFeather
Interesting that you did not dig any deeper than the propaganda on their website. The original proposal for the HAARP project stated that the purpose was to control the weather for warfare. Since there are now 18 of these facilities around the world, pay attention to the giant storms, tornados that are over a mile wide, and snowstorms that appear like clockwork every Tuesday to Thursday on the same path since 2009. Weather has never been this regular, and tornados and hurricanes have never been this large and destructive. Take a look at the website: http://geoengineeringwatch.com You can also read all the patents to control the weather since the 1950's on this site. Time to wake up and do your research.
okshock
Thanks Ben for the Einstein quote... You don't understand something till you can explain it to your grandma Just wondering Mr. Dodson... Did you go to the HAARP site to verify all the material that you are so sure of?? Or did you simply take the word of what the operators told you??
Pin
It's still unclear after reading the article, is military interest in this research only for communication purposes? What's wrong with using satellites? I hope that they are being responsible when it comes to borderline geo-engineering like this, but military institutions tend to be blind to the long term consequences of their actions.
Ron Johnson
depletion or annihilation of the ozone layer, hence turning the planet into a junior Mars. You're confusing the ozone layer with the Van Allen Belts. And maybe have watched "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea" once too often.