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Wyoming Cloud Seeding Experiment Begins This Month

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01/27/2006 01:26 AM
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Wyoming Cloud Seeding Experiment Begins This Month
Wyoming Cloud Seeding Experiment Begins This Month

January 26, 2006

BOULDERó A five-year, $8.8 million pilot project to examine whether seeding clouds with silver iodide produces a measurable increase in snowfall over Wyoming's Medicine Bow, Sierra Madre, and Wind River mountain ranges starts this month with intensive observations of Wyoming snow clouds. Scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) designed the experiment to evaluate a technique that has been mired in controversy for decades.

NCAR and partner institutions are deploying both airborne and ground-based instruments from January 16 to February 13 and again from March 10 to 31 to gather key data for the project. Microwave radiometers are capturing variations in snow-producing clouds over the target areas, including amounts and duration of water vapor and liquid water in the clouds. Instruments at selected sites are tracking precipitation rates, common meteorological variables, background air quality, and ecosystem characteristics. NCAR's partners in the observations include the University of Wyoming, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the Desert Research Institute, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Weather Modification, Inc., a private company based in Fargo, North Dakota, has been contracted to seed the target area's snow clouds. WMI is also providing a research aircraft and several ground-based instruments for this year's observations.

Cloud seeding is big business. Western states spend millions each year seeding clouds with silver iodide to increase snow or rain, but studies to evaluate the method's effectiveness, at least on a large scale, have been inconclusive. The Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) has funded the Wyoming Weather Modification Pilot Program to resolve whether cloud-seeding might provide Wyoming users with a low-cost source of fresh water.

[link to www.ucar.edu]