World turns to cloud seeding amid drought and climate change
Global leaders are turning to weather modification to make up for shortages caused by climate change. In the past two years, several western U.S. states have begun cloud seeding. This entails releasing silver iodide particles and other aerosols into the clouds to boost snow or rainfall. States that have invested significantly in cloud seeding include Idaho, Colorado, Utah, California and Wyoming. Seeding is also a key measure in the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
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In 2020, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research provided evidence that cloud seeding works. The researchers used complex radar and metrological methods to demonstrate that cloud seeding increases precipitation. Consequently, more countries began adopting the approach to deal with drought.
“Cloud seeding works,” said Katja Friedrich, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study. “We know that. We know that from experiments in the lab. We also have enough evidence that it works in nature. Really the question is: We still don’t have a very great understanding of how much water we can produce.”
Other countries using cloud seeding include China and the UAE. In the UAE, a weather enhancement factory can conduct up to 250 cloud seeding flares each week. Meanwhile, China already spends millions of dollars each year on weather modification. The Chinese government uses anti-aircraft guns to launch iodide flares into the sky in semi-arid regions to the north and west.
In recent years, the U.S. has grappled with difficult droughts. A study published in Nature Climate Change established that the period between 2000 and 2022 has been the driest in western U.S. history since 800 A.D. The study attributes this to human-caused climate change.
While cloud seeding is a reasonable solution to some leaders, some experts warn it is an unreliable solution to drought problems. Cloud seeding only increases precipitation by up to 10%. Further, experts say that there may not be enough storms to seed if climate change continues.