As huge water sources like the Colorado River or Arizona’s Lake Mead begin to dry, many American states are facing water shortages that will only worsen with time. In response, researchers are turning to cloud seeding: a technique that sounds like science fiction, but is already showing promise in real life. Cloud seeding is done by injecting small particles into clouds, which encourages water droplets to freeze around them. In the right conditions, these formations become large enough to drop out of the clouds as snow. However, only recently have researchers been able to quantify exactly how effective this process is.
A team at the University of Colorado Boulder offers a new way to precisely measure how much extra precipitation is produced through this process. Previous estimates have been highly inconsistent with one another, but this team had a novel strategy to tackle the problem. In three different experiments, they injected their particles into cloud formations and used a radar dish to monitor the process. By combining these radar observations with precipitation gauges, the team was able to track where and when snow attributed only to the cloud seeding developed.
All in all, the team showed that their three cloud seeding experiments produced enough precipitation to cover 571 football fields in a foot of water. This ability to quantify how much extra snow is coming just from cloud seeding is an important step forward. With precise measurements, researchers can better study and implement this technique in an effort to successfully combat our growing water scarcity problem.
Managing Correspondent: Isabella Grabski
Press Article: Let it snow: Researchers put cloud seeding to the test. Phys.org.
Original Scientific Article: Quantifying snowfall from orographic cloud seeding. PNAS.
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