Seeds of hope or seeds of doubt? The new rainmakers

Prolonged drought breeds desperation and desperation can lead to seeking out and putting faith in unconventional measures. This is why rainmakers have always been and will always be with us. And that’s why the dire prognosis for the world’s water supply has brought a renewed interest in cloud-seeding. Writer Elizabeth Svoboda describes the latest efforts at high-tech aerial rain dancing in an article from the April 2008 issue of Popular Mechanics :

. . .cloud seeders fly directly into the roiling depths, firing dozens of foot-long flares that disperse a cocktail of salty substances as they burn up. The salt forms millions of ice nuclei that attract droplets of water. Eventually, the drops grow heavy enough to fall out of the sky as rain. “Our mission is to make inefficient clouds more efficient with aerosols that are lacking in nature,” says Bruce Boe, Weather Modification’s director of meteorology.

Yes, science is finally dealing with those inefficient–possibly even lazy–clouds that are floating around up there all listless and anemic due to an aerosol deficiency. (in this sense, aerosol mean fine particulate matter dispersed in a gas, not just what you spray on ants or armpits.)

Our cheeky, skeptical tone notwithstanding, we really don’t know if cloud seeding works. As the article states, there’s no agreement about it in the scientific community (see also here). But this hasn’t stopped the wide-spread use of cloud-seeding to not only induce precipitation, but to disperse fog, reduce the size of hailstones, and clear polluted air. Hey, The Chinese swear by it.

Click on the illustration to see other examples of the spectacular work of its creator, Ian Kim.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Seeds of hope or seeds of doubt? The new rainmakers: Comments on recent scientific efforts in cloud seeding. (see also an earlier GWC blog post: how to make rain. […]

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