Cloud Seeding - An Emerging Industry

Cloud seeding from the air. Note the flare at the end of the wing that is releasing silver iodide into the clouds.
Cloud seeding from the air. Note the flare at the end of the wing that is releasing silver iodide into the clouds.

There is an unobtrusive industry growing in controversy that has powerful potential for environmental health and public well being world wide. This is the industry of cloud seeding - making it rain where it normally does not or at a time when it normally would not. Although humans have been affecting weather patterns for millenia with the way we've cut down forests and with uncontrolled growth of cities, this is the first time we know of that an actual industry has developed to change the weather directly.

Cloud seeding is widespread and growing, with some 150 ongoing projects counted worldwide in 2012 (according to the government of Australia). Unregulated, the industry could be inadvertently (or deliberately) destructive, but some dangers have already been experienced, and government and international agencies are watching carefully. Some restrictive legislation has already been passed. There are cases in US courts that will help define limits further. Careful testing on public health is already being carried out. It remains to be seen what more will be needed as this emerging industry grows.

What Is Cloud Seeding?

Cloud seeding is the process of throwing chemical agents into an already existing cloud mass that causes the cloud to thicken and/or water vapor to condense and fall as rain. The chemicals can be thrown from the ground or the air. In the air they are known as chemtrails.

Rain in Southern California, where cloud seeding is beginning to be noticeably utilized.
Rain in Southern California, where cloud seeding is beginning to be noticeably utilized. | Source

Cloud Seeding in Texas

Some of the ways in which cloud seeding is currently being used are:

  • To increase rainfall where it doesn't rain much.
  • To clean or cool the air for outdoor events.
  • To clear airports of fog.
  • To add snowpack for skiing or water supply.

  • To prevent hailstorms or reduce hurricanes by inducing rain early on.

  • To reduce heat from the sun by increasing cloud mass.

Government bodies, utilities, and private companies all use cloud seeding for projects such as these. Agents commonly used are sodium iodide (underneath a cloud), dry ice (above a cloud), sea salt (in warmer climates), liquid propane (to reduce fog), and desiccated ice-nucleating bacteria.

Texas has been cloud seeding for around 50 years. In the video the announcer states that the silver iodide used in cloud seeding has been proven safe, which is not exactly true. There is no strong evidence that it causes harm yet, but testing continues. Meanwhile, there is speculation that cloud seeding exacerbates droughts by removing the "seed moisture" needed for the next batch (like making sourdough bread or kombucha tea).

Molecular Matrix - Ice. Look beyond the dark blue background and notice the similarity of the two matrices.
Molecular Matrix - Ice. Look beyond the dark blue background and notice the similarity of the two matrices. | Source
Molecular Matrix - Silver Iodide. Its similar hexagonal shape gives this compound a similar ability to precipitate water vapor.
Molecular Matrix - Silver Iodide. Its similar hexagonal shape gives this compound a similar ability to precipitate water vapor. | Source

Cloud Seeding Experiments

Cloud seeding started in 1946 with experiments by researchers connected with the General Electric Research Laboratory in New York, who discovered the use of both dry ice and silver iodide the same year. In November of that year they tested in real time, causing snow to fall near Mount Greylock in Western Massachussetts.

In the 1960s, the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) agencies became primary supporters of cloud seeding. California was one of the country's early experimenters, starting in 1948, according to Wikipedia.

Later in that decade the U.S. Military used the practice to gain an advantage over their enemies, by flooding supply routes in VietNam. Weather manipulation for purposes of warfare was quickly banned by international treaty. Although the military still experiments, it is heavily restricted to weather measurement and enhancement projects only. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation carried out experiments in the U.S. and also in Thailand and Morocco until government funding declined in 2006.

Out of nearly 150 countries that have experimented with and are using cloud seeding on a regular basis there are Australia, Austria, Canada, China (the world's heaviest user), England, France, India, Jordan, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and more. China spends over $90 million per year in cloud seeding projects, while the US spends $15 million and growing. Other than the international ban against warfare use, all regulation of the industry is local.

Cloud Seeding - Went out for a walk just now, and lo and behold, they were cloud seeding right above my head in Pasadena CA (02/01/13). They were small planes, low enough to be seen.
Cloud Seeding - Went out for a walk just now, and lo and behold, they were cloud seeding right above my head in Pasadena CA (02/01/13). They were small planes, low enough to be seen.
In the ten minutes I stood there I counted six chemtrails being laid. It was clear by the sky that it had been going on for awhile. They'd started on the ocean side and the breeze was blowing the trails and new clouds toward the mountains.
In the ten minutes I stood there I counted six chemtrails being laid. It was clear by the sky that it had been going on for awhile. They'd started on the ocean side and the breeze was blowing the trails and new clouds toward the mountains. | Source

Cloud Seeding Used for Hail Suppression

Hailstone - If left to its own, hailstorms in Kansas and other places don't precipitate until the temperature is freezing cold, creating large hailstones like this that destroy crops.
Hailstone - If left to its own, hailstorms in Kansas and other places don't precipitate until the temperature is freezing cold, creating large hailstones like this that destroy crops. | Source
Seeded Cloud - The hole in these clouds was created by dropping dry ice into its center to make it precipitate earlier than normal.
Seeded Cloud - The hole in these clouds was created by dropping dry ice into its center to make it precipitate earlier than normal. | Source
Ice Pellets - The dry ice forces an impending hailstorm to precipitate as ice pellets at warmer temperatures, instead of clumping together later and dropping as hailstones.
Ice Pellets - The dry ice forces an impending hailstorm to precipitate as ice pellets at warmer temperatures, instead of clumping together later and dropping as hailstones. | Source

Cloud Seeding Companies

To give you an idea of what cloud seeding projects look like, here are some of the 14 U.S. companies that reported projects in 2011. These projects were registered with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which does weather tracking for the United States.

Franklin Soil & Water Conservation District - In the winter months of 2007 and 2011 this government entity seeded an area in Idaho, USA covering 184,000 square miles to encourage precipitation the following August.

North American Weather Consultants - In 2011 this company reported a total use of 96,047 grams of silver iodide to seed eight projects for local government agencies in Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and California. The projects lasted an average of 19 days each and covered a total area of 22,075 square miles. All projects but one were to increase snowfall. That one, in Santa Barbara County, CA was to increase winter rain. NAWC has over 60 years of experience in cloud seeding in five continents worldwide.

Western Kansas Groundwater - This public company seeded a 6,766 square mile area in Kansas during the months of Apr-Sep, 2011 to prevent hailstorms and enhance groundwater supplies. It's an annual program that has gone on for almost 40 years in a particularly dry part of Kansas, and has been filled with controversy about its efficacy. The company used dry ice for the first several years as its seeding agent, then switched to silver iodide, and now uses both. Recently the state of Kansas cut its supplemental funding in half, at the same time that the cost of silver iodide increased dramatically, necessitating a decrease in services provided.

Western Weather Consultants - This company carried out five projects in 2011, seeding a total of 10,000 acres in Colorado, all to increase snowfall. Two of those projects were for the Vail and Telluaride ski resorts, the other three to enhance water supply for the SW Water Conservation District (2) and the Denver Water Department.

Weather Modification - This North Dakota company flies 35 planes that execute cloud seeding and atmospheric research projects in 19 countries, including the U.S. In 2011 their six U.S. cloud seeding projects covered a distance of 13,495 square miles in Wyoming, California, and North Dakota. The company charges from $500,000 to $20 million for a cloud-seeding operation.


Cloud Seeding Projects

Looking from a project point of view, here are several sample projects that show the value of cloud seeding to enhance the water cycle:

Desert Research Institute, based in Reno, Nevada runs a wintertime cloud seeding and research program that is renowned worldwide. They were established in the 1970s and pioneered the development of modern cloud seeding generators and equipment. In 2009 they had 300 research projects operating on several continents, and had helped establish similar research institutes in 25 countries to study the effects of cloud seeding.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - This major water supplier has been financing water districts in Colorado for several years to increase snow pack in the Colorado Mountains. The end result is more water in the Colorado River, from which Southern California draws 1/3 of its water supply. The project benefits MWD's customer water districts and neighboring states who also draw from the Colorado River, and who also contribute money to the project.

The Government of India - The government is experimenting with seeding clouds on the leeward (rain shadow) side of mountains during the monsoon season. As a cloud is blown across the land by wind, it is caught by cold mountains, where it drops some of its rain or snow. The rest is blown over the mountain to the leeward side, where it usually dissipates in the warmer air. The government is hiring aircraft with specialized instruments from South Africa and Israel to seed these clouds before they evaporate.

Cloud Seeding Plans - China is preparing to seed in the beautiful Tian Shan Mountains to increase snow pack.
Cloud Seeding Plans - China is preparing to seed in the beautiful Tian Shan Mountains to increase snow pack. | Source

Government of China - China has the biggest ongoing cloud seeding program of any country in the world, spending about $90 million per year to increase rainfall throughout the country for farmers, and clear the air of pollutants over major cities. In 2007 they started "selling clouds" to private companies holding outdoor events, who wanted to seed for fresh air. In 2012 the government developed plans to expand the program yet further to seed drought-ridden areas across the Qilian and Tian Shan Mountains.

The United Arab Emirates - In coordination with the United States and South Africa, the UAE started developing seeding techniques for rain in the desert in 2001. Their experiments have been financed mainly by Shaikh Mansour from UAE. This project entailed nearly 200 flights of seeding and testing. The UAE now regularly produces over 52 rainstorms per year in the Abu Dhabi Desert, where it never used to rain.

Chemtrail Suppliers & Service Providers

In addition to governments and cloud seeding contractors, there are numerous companies supporting the industry. They include raw materials and equipment suppliers, service providers like mechanics and meteorologists, researchers like universities and government agencies, and financiers who pay for experimental runs. Here are some examples of supporting companies.

Seeding Media - The most common seeding medium used in cloud seeding is silver iodide, often mixed with indium trioxide. Other media used, depending on weather conditions, are liquid and frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice), liquid propane, and sea salt. Sulfur hexaflouride is often used as a tracer ahead of time to determine in what direction and how fast the air might be moving.

Air-Spraying Equipment - This is a wing mounted generator for spraying silver iodide.
Air-Spraying Equipment - This is a wing mounted generator for spraying silver iodide. | Source

Larger cloud seeders purchase raw materials in powder form directly from leading chemical companies, like Deepwater Chemicals, to assemble themselves. Others purchase already assembled and packaged media from the larger seeders.

Applicators - Applicators come in the form of hollow metal attachments to the wings of aircraft, ground-based generators that shoot media upward, or canisters that shoot liquid through a ground vehicle or aircraft's exhaust. Ice Crystal Engineering is one company that makes flares (applicators) for aerial application of silver iodide. (Silver iodide needs to be burned in order to stabilize its structure for cloud seeding.)

Aircraft - In India the private company Agni Aero Sports Adventure Academy manufactures microlight aircraft, trains pilots, and operates a cloud seeding program. In the United States, Weather Modification, Inc., operates and rents out a fleet of several models of more than 35 twin-engine aircraft.

Training - The University of North Dakota has a training program for young pilots to learn how to seed clouds as part of the university's accredited weather modification program. By the end of 2012 they had trained over 325 pilots. North Dakota started seeding in the 1950s, primarily to reduce the size of hail in hailstorms.

Increasing Cloud Cover

New Cloud Seeding Technology

Sea Salt Spray - Microsoft's Bill Gates is financing an interesting project to reduce the heat of the planet by increasing cloud cover over the oceans. The video at right shows San Francisco inventors funded by him who have created an unmanned, floating sprayer that would throw sea salt specks into the sky to condense moisture. Some of the technology uses principles discovered by Anton Flettner from Germany.

Laser Seeding - German, Swiss, and French researchers have meanwhile developed a new laser technique for increasing raindrop size, which they have started testing over the skies of Berlin. The laser, with a potential power greater than 1,000 power plants, fires into the atmosphere, reconstituting atoms in the air into components that could seed bigger and better water droplets - assuming there is enough water vapor in the air to respond accordingly.

Cloud Seeding Costs

On the surface of it, cloud seeding appears to satisfy a number of public needs, but it does not come without a cost. One of the concerns is the cumulative public health and environmental effects of the types of chemicals used in cloud seeding. Another is the potential danger of taking rain away from an area that might need it more, or drying the air faster than it's able to rehumidify, resulting in subsequent years of droughts and/or fires (which seems to be happening in Texas right now). Yet a third is the potential for creating floods, either from seeding too much or from strong winds that carry seeded clouds further than expected. Some of these concerns are being addressed already. Others are yet to come.

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Comments 10 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Thanks a bunch that is really interesting. Wow they used it in war. And they used it in the forties in California.


The Unlearner profile image

The Unlearner 3 years ago from Isle of Wight UK

A really well written article. I am doing some research of my own on the Island that I am living on, and the results are extremely worrying. Chem trails are a huge problem all over the world, and despite public pressure, government agencies are not eluding to the agenda here. Cloud seeding or weather modification is not a good thing at all, and does not serve the eco systems, plant life and humans well. I watched a very interesting film recently called 'What in the World are they spraying'. We all need to look up more and question what we are seeing.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago Author

I recently talked to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to see what kind of cloud seeding they're doing, and who is doing it around here. Turns out they are one of three states fueling money to Colorado utilities to seed the mountains that feed the Colorado River (from whence SoCal gets some of its water). They're not seeding around here (Pasadena) but utilities like SoCal Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric are. I intend to find out more.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

This is absolutely fascinating. I heard about cloud seeding back in the 1960s, but not about it's use in the Vietnam war. Back then, a lot of science fiction predicted its use. But I never heard of any ongoing practical applications - it's been kind of a shadow industry - or maybe lost in the clouds!

I'm amazed at how you find this stuff. Excellent research!


watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago Author

"Lost in the clouds" - I like that. Haven't been able to write much lately (getting ready to move) but I intend to write about seeding the Colorado River next. MWD gave me a contact with the guy in Colorado's Dept. of Water who is in charge of the seeding program for the state. Can't wait to talk to him and find out more.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

This is the kind of article that will do well in certain magazines. Find the environmental and science mags and start submitting. You obviously know your stuff and you write well.....go do it, my friend.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago Author

Thanks Billybuc, I will.


Blackspaniel1 profile image

Blackspaniel1 21 months ago

The way seeding works is to introduce ice. Seeding with a chemical that mimics the crystal structure of ice is the key. Ice forms and takes gaseous water to increase in size. Melting on the way down will result in rain. One problem is to enhance a cloud, reap the benefits, but have the cloud continue to grow and produce hail on another location, so care must be taken.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 21 months ago Author

Yes, it is. That's what this article is about. Thanks for reading, Blackspaniel1.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Wow! This was an well-thought out and planned article. So full of information on clouds and cloud seeding like the sea salt spray. Lots of stuff I didn't know about. Voted up!

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