Using meteorology and chemistry to help prod Mother Nature, water officials have begun seeding storm clouds throughout the Santa Ana Watershed to boost regional water supplies by enhancing the rain and snowfall produced during storms.
In mountain peaks across the West, it’s their job to make it snow.
No, they’re not wizards, even if the work they do seems like magic.
Amid a historic heatwave and months of drought, Mexico’s government has launched the latest phase of a cloud seeding project it hopes will increase rainfall. The project, which began in July, involves planes flying into clouds to release silver iodide particles which then, in theory, will attract additional water droplets and increase rain or snowfall.
As rain clouds swelled over Fort Stockton, Texas, last summer, a little yellow plane zipped through the sky. It was on a mission.
Equipped with tanks of water and special nozzles on its wings, the craft soared beneath the gray-white billows. Then, at just the right moment, it released a spray of electrically charged water particles into the cloud.
Despite a rush of rain and snow heading into 2022, 85% of California remains in severely dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
That’s why water agencies in Southern California and beyond are trying to squeeze a bit more water out of the storms that come this winter using a method called cloud seeding.
It’s a weather modification technique that uses silver iodide to bond cloud droplets together to form ice crystals, which grow into snowflakes and fall as either snow or rain, depending on the elevation.
Utah’s winter sports industry may claim the greatest snow on Earth, but for skiers and water watchers alike, there is hardly ever enough powder.
For nearly 50 years, the second-driest state in the nation has been giving natural winter storms an engineered boost to help deepen its snowpack through a program largely funded by state taxpayers, local governments and water conservancy districts.
When torrential rains flooded downtown Dubai earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates’ zealous embrace of cloud seeding was blamed by some.
So if cloud seeding can cause a desert to flood, why can’t Australia use the technology to break the drought?
The answer is surprisingly simple. For cloud seeding to produce rain you need moisture to begin with. And cloud. Australia at present is in short supply of both, and even if more clouds begin to make an appearance in the Australian sky, chances are they will not be the right type.
It was the summer of 2015, and San Luis Obispo County was in the fourth year of severe drought with no rain in sight. Half-empty reservoirs were declining, the water table was noticeably dropping, farmers had fallowed fields. Water managers responsible for city and agricultural supplies frantically looked for possible emergency water sources if conditions got worse. Brian Talley, third-generation farmer and president of Talley Fields and Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, made the tough call to plant fewer crops in the fields around Huasna Road after the wells used to irrigate the farm and vineyard “became very unproductive.”