Ask Anthony… Cloud Seeding

This is an e-mail I received from Ray:

With the drought in Texas being so severe and watching all the moisture laden clouds being drawn to the storms north of this area…  I keep wondering why the government doesn’t consider seeding those clouds.  Seems to me that it would be cheaper than fighting the wild fires and could also reduce the intensity of the storms further north.  If technology can make cloud seeding work now it would truly be a win-win.

Hi Ray,

Good question.  The problem is it wouldn’t be cheaper.  Cloud seeding takes fuel, chemicals and, of course, an airplane.  None of these are cheap on the scale we are talking about.  One plane won’t do the trick, and are we going to ask the government in these cash-strapped times to send out hundreds of planes making hundreds of trips to cover a relatively small area?  Our state is huge — what counties are left out?  Who gets the seeding?  West Texas, where the fires have been the worst, is a dry climate. Seeding may work for a short time, but lower humidity would erase all moisture picked up by the vegetation.  There are also the political impacts.  What if Montgomery County is sprayed and fires break out in in Liberty, Waller and Walker counties? People would start asking if rain was “taken” away from their cities because someone in the government felt Montgomery County was more worthy.  Lastly, there is still some debate out there about if weather cloud seeding really works.  Southeast Texas is a good example of how seeding the clouds may not help.  Our problem isn’t a lack of moisture, it’s the strong inversion over our area.  More moisture won’t break the cap on our atmosphere.  We need low pressure, the jet stream or some other strong lifting mechanism to break the cap. Once that happens, we’ll get rain.

To sum it up, it would cost too much, help too little and there is no guarantee it would bring about the results needed in the areas sprayed. 

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4 Responses

  1. good answer.

    another point what happens if one area gets 11 inches of rain and floods because of seeding. Those are the things that keep lawyers busy

    (i.e. Big Thompson Canyon Colorado)

  2. Great point James.

  3. I’m a faithful watcher of your weather forecast, but your answer to this question delved way too deep into politics for me.

  4. Hi Francyne,
    Honestly, cloud seeding is about poltics and science. In 1947, researchers from General Electric and the U.S. government used an airplane to “seed” a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina. The hurricane reversed direction and sped toward Savannah, Georgia, where it caused $2-million damage. The people of Georgia felt those efforts steered the storm toward them. The truth won’t ever be known but you get the point.

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