Nav: Home

Cloud seeding for snow: Does it work? Scientists report first quantifiable observations

January 24, 2018

For the first time, scientists have obtained direct, quantifiable observations of cloud seeding for increased snowfall -- from the growth of ice crystals, through the processes that occur in clouds, to the eventual snowfall.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported project, dubbed SNOWIE (Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds -- the Idaho Experiment), took place from Jan. 7 to March 17, 2017, in and near Idaho's Payette Basin, located approximately 50 miles north of Boise.

The research was conducted in concert with the Boise-based Idaho Power Company, which provides a large percentage of its electrical power through hydroelectric dams.

Throughout the Western U.S. and in other semi-arid mountain regions across the globe, water supplies are maintained primarily through snowmelt. Growing human populations place a higher demand on water, while warmer winters and earlier springs reduce snowpack and water supplies. Water managers see cloud seeding as a potential way of increasing winter snowfall.

"But no one has had a comprehensive set of observations of what really happens after you seed a cloud," says Jeff French, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wyoming (UW) and SNOWIE principal investigator. "There have only been hypotheses. There have never been observations that show all the steps in cloud seeding."

French is the lead author of a paper reporting the results, published in today's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors of the paper are affiliated with the University of Colorado- Boulder, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the Idaho Power Company.

French credited modern technology with making the detailed cloud-seeding observations possible, citing the use of ground-based radar as well as radar on UW's King Air research aircraft and multiple flights over the mountains near Boise.

"This research shows that modern tools can be applied to longstanding scientific questions," says Nick Anderson, a program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the study. "We now have direct observations that seeding of certain clouds follows a pathway first theorized in the mid-20th century."

Cloud seeding stimulates snowfall by releasing silver iodide into clouds from the air or from ground-based generators. In the SNOWIE project, an aircraft supported by the Idaho Power Company released the silver iodide, while the UW King Air took measurements to monitor the silver iodide's impact.

Cloud seeding occurred during 21 flights. During three flights, Idaho Power was forced to suspend cloud seeding because there was already so much snow in the Idaho mountains, French says. The UW King Air made 24 flights lasting four to six hours each, the last three monitoring natural snowfall activity.

Numerical modeling of precipitation measurements was conducted using a supercomputer nicknamed Cheyenne at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.

The numerical models simulated clouds and snowfall over the Payette Basin, as created both in natural storms and with cloud seeding. The models are enabling researchers to study storms where measurements have not been obtained in the field.

"In the long-term, we will be able to answer questions about how effective cloud seeding is, and what conditions may be needed," says French. "Water managers and state and federal agencies can make decisions about whether cloud seeding is a viable option to add additional water to supplies from snowpack in the mountains."
-end-


National Science Foundation

Related Water Articles:

Water, water, nowhere
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering have found that the unusual properties of graphane -- a two-dimensional polymer of carbon and hydrogen -- could form a type of anhydrous 'bucket brigade' that transports protons without the need for water, potentially leading to the development of more efficient hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles and other energy systems.
Advantage: Water
When water comes in for a landing on the common catalyst titanium oxide, it splits into hydroxyls just under half the time.
What's really in the water
Through a five-year, $500,000 CAREEER Award from the National Science Foundation, a civil and environmental engineering research group at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering will be developing new DNA sequencing methods to directly measure viral loads in water and better indicate potential threats to human health.
Jumping water striders know how to avoid breaking of the water surface
When escaping from attacking predators, different water strider species adjust their jump performance to their mass and morphology in order to jump off the water as fast and soon as possible without breaking of the water surface.
Water, water -- the two types of liquid water
There are two types of liquid water, according to research carried out by an international scientific collaboration.
Just add water? New MRI technique shows what drinking water does to your appetite, stomach and brain
Stomach MRI images combined with functional fMRI of the brain activity have provided scientists new insight into how the brain listens to the stomach during eating.
UM researchers found shallow-water corals are not related to their deep-water counterparts
A new study led by scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science found that shallow-reef corals are more closely related to their shallow-water counterparts over a thousand miles away than they are to deep-water corals on the same reef.
Saline water better than soap and water for cleaning wounds, researchers find
Researchers found that very low water pressure was an acceptable, low-cost alternative for washing out open fractures, and that the reoperation rate was higher in the group that used soap.
UTA research predicting lake levels, moving water to yield better data for water providers
A University of Texas at Arlington environmental engineer is creating an integrated decision support tool for optimal operation of water supply systems that will allow water providers to make better decisions about when to turn on pumps to transfer water from one reservoir system to another and when to release water downstream from the reservoirs.
Surfing water molecules could hold the key to fast and controllable water transport
Scientists at UCL have identified a new and potentially faster way of moving molecules across the surfaces of certain materials.

Related Water Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".