Here’s why a plane is “cloud seeding” over NorCal as the rain falls

For the first time in more than two months, measurable rain fell Tuesday morning in California’s Central Valley. At the same time, a special aircraft cruised through the gray sky and launched flares into the clouds below. These flares contained a chemical solution that acts like “cloud seeds”. The concept of cloud seeding has been used occasionally, primarily by the military, since the 1940s. It is a type of weather modification that can increase the productivity of rain or snow clouds . Here is the basic science. Clouds are made up of countless water vapor particles that condense into microscopic bits of dust and salt. These bits of dust and salt are scientifically called “cloud condensation nuclei”, but you can think of them as natural “cloud seeds”. Every cloud has these “seeds”, but not all clouds have enough of them to produce precipitation. This is where cloud seeding comes in. Recent research shows that injecting these additional “seeds” into clouds using aircraft or ground-based generators can indeed produce precipitation. in the clouds that otherwise would not have happened. However, there are still big questions about the profitability of this practice. Tuesday morning’s cloud seeding flight was part of a SMUD project designed to increase snow accumulation and flow along the Upper American River. The goal is to enable SMUD to produce more hydroelectric power as a clean energy source. According to Kaitlyn Bednar, SMUD’s cloud seeding program coordinator, past cloud seeding attempts have increased the water content of a region’s snowpack by an average of 3 to 10 percent. The environmental impacts of cloud seeding have also been studied. To date, no evidence has been found to show significant negative impacts on ecosystems or consumable drinking water. Cloud-watching procedures are carefully monitored, as the most popular solution, silver iodide, can be toxic in high concentrations. Finally, don’t rely on cloud seeding as an answer to the California drought. In addition to relatively marginal increases in precipitation production, cloud seeding can only occur under very specific conditions. Fairly thick low clouds should already be present and there should be enough cold air in the middle levels of the atmosphere. Bednar says SMUD’s ability to sanitize seeds is highly variable from season to season and highly dependent on these ideal weather conditions.

For the first time in more than two months, measurable rain fell Tuesday morning in California’s Central Valley. At the same time, a special aircraft cruised through the gray sky and launched flares into the clouds below. These flares contained a chemical solution that acts like “cloud seeds”.

The concept of cloud seeding has been used occasionally, primarily by the military, since the 1940s. It is a type of weather modification that can increase the productivity of rain or snow clouds .

Here is the basic science.

Clouds are made up of countless water vapor particles that condense into microscopic bits of dust and salt. These bits of dust and salt are scientifically called “cloud condensation nuclei”, but you can think of them as natural “cloud seeds”. Every cloud has these “seeds”, but not all clouds have enough of them to produce precipitation.

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This is where cloud seeding comes in. Recent research shows that injecting these additional “seeds” into clouds using aircraft or ground-based generators can indeed produce precipitation. in the clouds that otherwise would not have happened.

However, there are still big questions about the profitability of the practice.

Tuesday morning’s cloud seeding flight was part of a SMUD project designed to increase snow accumulation and flow along the Upper American River. The goal is to enable SMUD to produce more hydroelectric power as a clean energy source.

According to Kaitlyn Bednar, SMUD’s cloud seeding program coordinator, past cloud seeding attempts have increased the water content of a region’s snowpack by an average of 3 to 10 percent.

The environmental impacts of cloud seeding have also been studied. To date, no evidence has been found to show significant negative impacts on ecosystems or consumable drinking water. Cloud detection procedures are carefully monitored, as the most popular solution, silver iodide, can be toxic in high concentrations.

Finally, don’t rely on cloud seeding as an answer to the California drought. In addition to relatively marginal increases in precipitation production, cloud seeding can only occur under very specific conditions. Fairly thick low clouds should already be present and there should be enough cold air in the middle levels of the atmosphere.

Bednar says SMUD’s ability to sanitize seeds is highly variable from season to season and highly dependent on these ideal weather conditions.

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