Cloud Seeding Technology: How Drones Can Create Rainfall

SEATTLE, Washington – Cloud seeding technology has been around for about 70 years, starting with researcher Vincent Shaefer’s first experiment in 1946. In this experiment, Shaefer dropped six pounds of dry ice in clouds in New York, with almost instant results: snow began to fall.

What is cloud seeding?

This technology releases chemicals or electrical charges in clouds. The most common chemical used in these experiments is silver iodide. This chemical works by attracting water droplets to clouds that freeze when they come together. As more droplets combine, that clump of frozen water droplets becomes too heavy for the cloud. It will eventually fall as snow.

Increasing the amount of snow a country receives increases its snow cover. This has a positive effect on the water level in the country. When the snowpack begins to melt in spring, the resulting runoff can be a main source of water for the population. While studies have shown mixed results from these weather modification experiments, some results have shown that sown clouds can form in the area 5% to 15% more snowfall.

Drones in the United Arab Emirates

the National Center for Meteorology (NCM) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently started using it Drones fly in clouds and release the electrical charges required for cloud sowing. These electrical charges work similarly to silver iodide by helping water droplets mix and form a precipitate. With this method, the UAE can avoid releasing chemicals into the air and simply release electrical charges with the same result.

In the United Arab Emirates, it typically rains less than four inches per year, which makes water scarcity a major concern for the country. Two thirds of the UAE’s water needs are met through the use of groundwater. This dependency has become a problem as high temperatures cause high evaporation and increased demand as a result of a growing population. Studies have shown that cloud sowing can potentially increase precipitation by 35%. The NCM hopes that this increase in rainfall can help alleviate the effects of water scarcity in the affected areas.

The effects of the drought

Every year around 55 million people are affected by drought and water scarcity. Drought threatens livestock and crops, increases disease and deaths, and increases migration. About 40% of the world population is affected by water scarcity. Water is needed for agriculture, which means that water shortages can lead to malnutrition and food insecurity.

In addition, women are disproportionately affected by water scarcity. Every year in sub-Saharan Africa more than 40 billion hours are lost to get water, a job mainly assigned to women. These women then have to miss school or even drop out. As a result, they remain trapped in the cycle of poverty and have few opportunities.

Current data

Over the years, the results of weather modification experiments have been inconclusive. These experiments are extremely difficult to perfect. To be successful, there must be two situations with the same weather conditions, one with cloud seeding technology and one without. Because the weather is unpredictable and can change quickly, this is difficult to achieve. In recent years, however, advances have been made that indicate successful experiments.

As mentioned earlier, seeded clouds can produce around 5 to 15% more snowfall than clouds that have not undergone any seeding technology. This data suggests that the cost of cloud seeding technology is only a few dollars per acre of water. However, other water-saving technologies like recycling and desalination can often cost hundreds of dollars per square foot of water.

Recent data has shown the importance of following cloud seeding technology with further research. With water scarcity mounting, organizations around the world continue to push for research into this technology. Water is one of the most important resources needed worldwide, and with more information, new experiments can show how we can best address the growing scarcity.

– Alessandra Heitmann
Photo: Flickr