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Earth Science

Major Study Concludes That Cloud Seeding Is Effective 81

An anonymous reader writes "A 45-year Australian trial is the best evidence yet that cloud seeding — the practice of artificially inducing clouds to make rain — really works."
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Major Study Concludes That Cloud Seeding Is Effective

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  • by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:03PM (#26713517)
    I thought this was some new bit torrent technique using the cloud or something.

    Looks like its lunch time
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      That's exactly what it's all about. When you seed from the cloud, the torrents run better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by clem ( 5683 )

        Only if your seed is pure.

        • "The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth . . . and kill!"

  • by Jon.Laslow ( 809215 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:04PM (#26713537) Homepage Journal
    Linked article points to Spray-On Solar Panels... Huh?
  • What I like best about this article is how the link has absolutely NOTHING to do with the summary.

    So what shall we talk about?

  • Proper URL and text (Score:5, Informative)

    by grogglefroth ( 461680 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:08PM (#26713627) Homepage

    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/2514/major-study-proves-cloud-seeding-effective [cosmosmagazine.com]

    SYDNEY: A 45-year Australian trial is the best evidence yet that could seeding - the practice of artificially inducing clouds to make rain - really works.

    Since the mid-20th century scientists have attempted to produce rain by dispersing chemical substances into the clouds and stimulating precipitation. However, until now, there has been little concrete scientific evidence that cloud seeding is effective.

    "This is the first time that an independent analysis of cloud seeding data over several decades has shown a statistically significant increase in rainfall," said Steven Siems, a meteorologist from Monash University in Melbourne and leader of the study.

    Significant finding

    The Monash team, in conjunction with renewable energy firm Hydro Tasmania, analysed monthly rainfall patterns over the hydroelectric catchment area between May and October from 1960 until 2005.

    As they detailed in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology the analysis revealed higher levels of rain in the parts of the catchment where the rain making technique was used than in those where it was not.

    "A number of independent statistical tests showed a consistent increase of at least five per cent in monthly rainfall over the catchment area," said Siems.

    For the could seeding technique, the researchers select clouds using specialist weather radar technology that allows them to see all the tiny processes that take place within them.

    Once clouds for seeding are chosen, minute particles of a silver compound are dusted into them by light aircraft to stimulate rain formation.

    Super-cooled water

    Anthony Morrison, a climatologist at Monash and co-author of the study, explained that these silver particles cause super-cooled water in the clouds to freeze. As these particular clouds are so high in the atmosphere that they are below freezing point, the frozen drops recruit water and get heavier causing them to fall from the clouds as rain.

    However, the researchers caution that the result may be due to the unique clouds in this part of Tasmania and would be difficult to reproduce elsewhere.

    "Clouds over the Southern Ocean are different to any other clouds", Siems told Cosmos Online. "They are really loaded with super cool liquid water." Just as important, he said, is the remoteness of the location: "the air in the Southern Ocean is exceptionally clean with virtually no pollution."

    And the researchers are still at a loss to precisely explain how the technique was successful.

    "They're really not comparable to clouds that have been seeded anywhere else in the world," said Morrison. "Further field measurements of cloud microphysics over the region are needed to provide a physical basis for these statistical results."

    Despite the caveats, other experts are excited by the results.

    "At long last there is scientific backup for the [cloud seeding] hypothesis that has been suggested over the years," commented Roger Stone, director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba.

    However, while the study is a breakthrough, he noted that cloud seeding does not work in all locations and specific techniques have to be developed for each region.

    "For example, in Queensland the conditions are highly different. It has to be the right time and exactly the right cloud for it to work," he said. "The key is to get a very good weather radar."

    Let it snow

    Paul Johnson, a spokesperson from Snowy Hydro, who are conducting similar experiments to artificial induce snowfall in Victoria's Snowy Mountains, said the results were promising. "It's another indicator that supports our preliminary data and backs up what the experts said in the beginning. That we would see an increase in snow."

    Because of the unusual nature of

  • by Praedon ( 707326 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:08PM (#26713631) Journal
    ...Wildfires are pretty tough out there, so why not use this method?

    Correct link by the way: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/2514/major-study-proves-cloud-seeding-effective [cosmosmagazine.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 )

      ...Wildfires are pretty tough out there, so why not use this method?

      Because screwing with the environment is not the answer to damage being done by screwing with the environment?

      • +1

        I remember reading an article last year on how the Chinese government was prepared to take preventive measures during the Beijing Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies. They wanted the event to go smoothly, so they had teams of scientists and climatologists ready to prevent any occurrence of rain.

        The goal of Chinese officials was the exact opposite of the Australian ones, but the point is - having the ability to change the climactic cycle doesn't mean you have to use it, much less abuse it!

    • by JSBiff ( 87824 )

      Yeah. . . first you need some clouds to seed. I'm not sure, but I believe that you will not often find the confluence of clouds suitable for seeding at the same time and location that you have a wildfire?

      • by dov_0 ( 1438253 )

        AFAIK we've never used it on fires as it's not able to produce the necessary rainfall in the middle of summer when there are no real clouds around anyway. Perhaps it could be useful though in making use of any weather change that comes through before clouds move on elsewhere.

        Not sure how our laws (Summary Offences Act, Victoria) would affect that also. The Act has one section which makes it an offence to seed clouds without permission - from whom I cannot recall.

        We have fires as bad as you in California, in

    • by 3waygeek ( 58990 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:45PM (#26714353)

      Well, California has been cloud seeding since 1948 [wikipedia.org], with varying degrees of success. I suppose another arrow in the quiver couldn't hurt.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The British Ministry of Defence were experimenting in the early 50s. Unfortunately, they were a bit too successful [bbc.co.uk] and killed 34 people when the village of Lynmouth was washed away.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:49PM (#26714441) Journal
      I suspect that, if the effect is subtle enough to require a multi-year statistical analysis involving an entire hydro catchment, it'd be only modestly more effective than spitting for dealing with fire.

      Might be possible to keep the place a little moister, and thus less prone to fire(likely at the cost of stealing even more water from surrounding areas); but not much more than that.
    • Because you need some clouds first.
      Clouds with potential.

    • Wildfires often burn so hot that rain evaporates before it even hits the flames. So that would render your cloud-seeding method of fighting wildfires pretty much worthless.

      • When water evaporates, it draws heat away from its surroundings. I don't understand why with enough of a downpour, the water won't reach the wildfire's fuel source.

    • Combine this with the ability to put water IN THE AIR. Then allow it to be taken out in Utah and Colorado. That would fill up the reservoirs, which is needed for Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nv, and Southern Cal via the Colorado River Basin. Then we can skip the need to develop pipes or even in ground water.
  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:11PM (#26713695)

    Wow, apparently editors don't even LOOK at TFA these days :P

  • Even editors don't read the ONE-LINE summary. (Yeah, I must be new here.)
  • I myself find great success with the Great American Rain Dance...

    ...washing my car. Never fails!

  • I believe that between fertilizing the oceans with iron, painting all roofs white to increase the albido, and could seeding, we can make this planet just like our native home.

  • Rain Wars? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dripdry ( 1062282 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:02PM (#26714703) Journal

    Does this mean that countries could begin to wage "weather war"? If we stop rain from falling on a country, it would be just sieging a castle.

    • I was thinking we could use this to turn poor, worthless, dry areas into working agrarian areas.

      You know, like the middle east. It would be nice if those people could stop fighting for once and focus on producing something other than oil.

      • That actually sounds like a much better idea.

        I must still be stuck in "War on Terror" mode from the last 8 years.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Er, seeding doesn't make rain out of nothing. It's just water management, triggering where moisture falls, and unfortunately we don't have a balancing method to gather more moisture from seas.

        Grotesquely simplifying a complex system, you've got a fixed X amount of moisture, and seeding is a way of getting it to become rain at point A before the moisture gets farther on to rain at point B.

        Which means this doesn't do anything for the Middle East where water management disputes is a huge, bloody, conflict poin

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @03:08PM (#26714799)

    I thought I may have to go a whole day without seeing a story about Australia on Slashdot.

    I hate it when it's kdawson's day off!

    Luckily for us timothy stepped into the breach.

    So, what's the next BIG STORY: Australian Man Figures Out How To Use Light Switch?

  • Just to show how mind-warped IT people are, I immediately assumed that this that to do something with the IT 'cloud', rather than actual physical clouds... Go figure..
  • by mschuyler ( 197441 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:24PM (#26717137) Homepage Journal

    Kurt Vonnegut's older brother, Bernard Vonnegut, 1914-1997 was a meteorologist who figured this out while working for General Electric. Why is this news now?

    • Kurt Vonnegut's older brother, Bernard Vonnegut, 1914-1997 was a meteorologist who figured this out while working for General Electric. Why is this news now?

      Cloud seeding has been practiced for many years, but quantifying its success has been difficult. This study claims to have done that. That is the news.

      If you needed a hint that Cloud seeding itself wasn't the news, perhaps the fact that the summary is discussing a 45 year trial could have clued you in.

  • by bug1 ( 96678 )

    Apparently in the early seventies the CSIRO (Australian Government funded research organisation) was directed to abandoned its research and development of computers in favour of cloud seeding.

    Cloud seeding was said by the government of the day to be the next big thing, unlike these big computer thinga-me-bobs which had only limited application.

    I dont think any Australia government has ever had a grasp on technology.

  • >For the cloud seeding technique, the researchers select clouds using specialist weather radar technology
    > that allows them to see all the tiny processes that take place within them.

    Where's the control? How do they know that they are not (unintentionally, of course) *selecting* clouds that
    would have produced rain anyway?

    The fact that they are testing over decades actually works against reaching the conclusion they've reached.

  • I read a bit about this when I was skiing at Perisher Blue last a year and a half ago. The part that interested me most was the possibility to increase snowfall, which is great because our skiing resorts in Australia don't get a huge amount of snow.

  • FM Radio found to be great way to advertise, Cigarette smoke found to be bad for your health, and President Nixon Impeached!

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