Cloud seeding : the latest technical development in drought prevention

The “cloud seeding” technique is not new. Yet, a company called Weather Modification Inc. decided to use it to help and stop droughts and improve water cycles around the world.

Climate change is a serious issue which could cause water shortages for two-thirds of the world population by 2025, says World Wildlife Fund. Weather Modification Inc. might have found a solution to this problem : the  “cloud seeding”. The North-Dakota based company specializes in the extraction of raindrops from clouds. They use planes to target clouds and essentially “make them rain.” The method is called cloud seeding.

The company insists on the fact that the process isn’t creating rain out of thin air. Brian Kindrat, an aircraft captain at Weather Modification, spoke with Rachel Crane, CNN Correspondent : “If there [are] no clouds in the sky, or if they don’t have any moisture in them, then we can’t do anything.”

The cloud seeding process isn’t new, it has been around for a few decades. Concretely, there are two ways to influence the level of precipitation of a cloud : by land or by air.

Aerial cloud seeding implies a plane releasing a mixture made of silver iodide on the top of a targeted cloud. The agent will act directly on the cloud droplets by accelerating their growth. The raindrops become heavier and fall to the ground. “The idea is that it’s going to freeze and turn into snow, so it can fall out of the cloud,” said Kindrat.

Aerial cloud seeding is the most efficient, as more precise and accurate. Ground-based cloud seeding is the second method that can be used to accelerate rain formation. This process can be used with clouds situated closer to the ground.

A solution for droughts ?

Weather Modification Inc. believes that cloud seeding is part of the solution to end droughts around the world. In 2017, the company provided planed to the National Science Foundation, which was studying the effectiveness of such practice.

Neil Brackin, President of Weather Modification Inc., said that “we aren’t going to solve large climate shifts, but California could look a lot different today if we had an additional 10 to 20% additional snowpack and precipitation over the last decade. It would be significantly different.”

Playing gods ?

Weather Modification Inc. has faced criticism on many aspects such as the unknown long-term effect of cloud seeding on the environment. No study has been made on the environmental impact of the use of silver iodide either. Furthermore, experts aren’t able to say how the practice truly impacts the water cycle.

Brackin replied to the critics by stating that Weather Modification Inc. is “being very specific and environmentally friendly in what we’re doing to enhance the natural precipitation.”

Credits : Photo by Vinícius Henrique on Unsplash

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