With drought extending for longer periods than it used to, the need for rain has increased more and more. Unfortunately, praying for it is no longer enough and there is a need for more innovative and drastic moves, something out of a fiction novel, for instance. One such example is cloud seeding. This refers to a process where cloud systems are injected with a substance, such as silver iodide, which will cause water within a cloud to turn into ice and increase the chances of rainfall. The increase in precipitation, however, may be good in one area, but can have an adverse effect in another. While cloud seeding can alleviate drought, it has its share of pros and cons as well.
List of Pros of Cloud Seeding
1. Increase Precipitation
Areas that are in dire need of water will certainly benefit from cloud seeding. It is designed to create rain, after all. In addition to silver iodide, different seeding agents are used to seed clouds in different climates. Dry ice and liquefied gases are used in cold climates, while various forms of salt work are suitable for areas in the tropics. Increased rainfall will lessen the impact of drought, enabling crops to grow and yield more. Because the agricultural sector is the most affected during a drought, the arrival of rain, whether it is natural or artificial, will be considered a blessing. In fact, seeding is one solution for future famine.
2. Improve Land Conditions
Typically dry places will find seeding beneficial, as it can make harsh environments more hospitable. It can also increase the potential for increased rainfall, even in desert areas. When used effectively and properly, it can improve a destination’s level of attractiveness to tourists and travelers. This, in turn, will help the overall economy, which makes the effects of seeding far reaching. Moreover, it can regulate the weather because water vapor in the air can be controlled, preventing the occurrence of hail and reduce the severity of some storms.
3. Bring Economic Improvement
Places where famine is a major problem will find cloud seeding an ideal solution to help alleviate the condition and increase potential for growing crops. This will bring economic betterment of developing countries.
List of Cons of Cloud Seeding
1. Adverse Effects
As previously mentioned, cloud seeding can be good for one area and bad for another. Since there is only one atmosphere being shared by everyone, increasing precipitation in one place can cause a decrease in another area. It can also alter weather patterns in a negative way.
In a study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, cloud seeding done over the southeastern equatorial Pacific Ocean resulted in La Nina weather patterns. This caused water temperatures of the equatorial Pacific to drop to an unusually cold level. When this happened, sea life in the affected area suffered, and so did the humans who depend greatly on the food coming from the sea.
2. Cloud Pollution
Seeding agents are basically chemicals injected to the cloud systems. As rain falls, the silver iodide, salts or dry ice used will also fall. Although the effects of silver iodide are still being studied, high levels of the residual silver discovered in areas near cloud-seeding projects are considered toxic. Imagine what can happen to the planet if the rest of the world employs cloud seeding? Dry ice, on the other hand, can be a source of greenhouse gas that is a major contributor of global warming. It is carbon dioxide, after all. Suffice to say that these agents can be harmful to animals, humans, plants and the environment.
3. Costly Process
To seed clouds, agents have to be shot into cloud systems as flares or dropped from airplanes, which is not exactly cheap. Add to this the cost of the chemicals used and you could be looking at an expensive process. Good enough if the amount of rainfall can thoroughly saturate the ground and water the crops. If the first time doesn’t yield as much rain, the process would have to be repeated once, twice, thrice or more.
4. Question of Effectiveness
As of now, there really is no way of truly evaluating the efficiency of cloud seeding, since agents are only injected into clouds that are showing signs of potential rain. If the process does result in rainfall, it would be hard to tell whether the reason that it rained is due to seeding or because the clouds are ready to let it rain. Has anyone tried to seed a different type of cloud?
5. Rainfall Management
Cloud seeding may be able to regulate the weather and make a place more hospitable than it used to be, but regulating the amount of rainfall is an existing issue that is yet to be resolved. It is possible that flooding can occur, which could do more harm than good. Whatever crops being grown is likely to drown under the circumstances and so will the animals and even people. Serious flooding can also lead to disastrous and very expensive damages. In fact, there have been numerous accounts of major disasters brought on by this process since experimentation began in the 1940s.
According to an investigation conducted by the BBC, a cloud seeding operation in August 1952 that was carried out by RAF pilots turned from good to worst. Rain immediately fell just 30 minutes after clouds were seeded, but it did not stop for over a month. This resulted in serious flooding in North Devon and the town of Lynmouth. Lives and properties were lost.
Another cloud seeding project in the ski areas and water districts west of the Continental Divide also led to serious ramifications. According to Diane Macmillan, a licensed realtor, a snow pack of 500% above normal was produced on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, but the east side went through severe droughts, and even caused wildfire in eastern Colorado. The ashes that resulted in the wildfire acted as seeding agents and then drifted towards Wisconsin that caused severe flooding. Under the circumstances, cloud seeding is more destructive than beneficial.