The Western states are experiencing the most significant drought in 1,200 years, with water shortages and dry weather affecting 61% of the contiguous United States. There are many initiatives aimed at addressing this, such as solar panels covering streams in California; but another option is to try to make it snow.

A team of scientists is seeding clouds over mountains to make it snow more often.This is to combat the severe drought in the western United States. Cloud seeding has been practiced since the 1940s. During the process, chemicals are injected into clouds to induce the development of snow and rain droplets.

Growing popularity

Cloud seeding is a widespread practice in China, and it’s becoming more frequent in the United States. This is due to the continuous drought in certain regions, notably in Utah and North Dakota. Seeding has been going on in these regions for nearly five decades.

According to a CNN story, Wyoming is relatively new at seeding, having begun trials in 2003. However, they’ve cranked things up this season, with 28 flight missions to seed clouds over mountain regions. The Wyoming cloud seeding program’s team describes it as “water storage,” but it is stored as snow on mountaintops throughout the winter months instead of being stored in large tanks.

Experts searching for solutions 

While cloud seeding has been proven to boost snowfall to a limited extent, it isn’t a solution for the region’s chronic, terrible drought. According to Julie Gondzar, program manager for Wyoming’s Weather Modification Program, not everyone favors cloud seeding. Some believe her team is “playing God” and “stealing moisture from the storm,” making other places drier.

Gondzar explained there is a cost-benefit analysis involved in determining whether the effort required to seed the clouds is worthwhile. Due to the region’s water scarcity, experts are doing everything they can to generate water, including increasing snowfall. “Think about it like water storage, but in the winter on mountaintops,” she said. 

Cloud seeding in Wyoming 

In 2003, Wyoming began cloud seeding as part of a study. The state started to fund cloud-seeding operations in an official capacity after conducting ten years of tests that showed promising results. This season, Wyoming has flown 28 missions for cloud-seeding operations. Wyoming is relatively new to cloud seeding, although states such as Utah and North Dakota had been practicing the technique since the 1970s and ’80s. 

Cloud seeding uses silver iodide to create ice crystals favorable for precipitation. Artificial ice nuclei speed the formation of rain and snow by increasing the amount of precipitation a cloud creates. This can happen in two ways: from the ground and from the air.