University Of Wyoming Scientists Say Cloud Seeding Won't Combat Drought

Dec 16, 2020

Cloud seeding material, like silver iodide, is released into clouds from airplanes.
Credit Brandenburg/Minden Pictures/Newscom

Researchers at the University of Wyoming are studying a weather modification technology that may increase snowfall, called cloud seeding, to see if it can help with droughts.

Jeff French, a UW assistant professor in atmospheric science, said cloud seeding is when researchers use an airplane to add silver iodide particles into clouds. That silver encourages water droplets in a cloud to freeze, which then increases the amount of water in the cloud.

"If you have a bucket of water and a bucket of ice in the same conditions, then that bucket of ice will grow," he said. "More molecules will come out of the air and attach themselves to the ice."

French said scientists have found an increase in snowfall from individual clouds after adding the silver, but they have not looked at multiple storms across an entire region.

"It's likely that, in some places, cloud seeding may very well be a viable option," he said. "But it's equally as likely that in other places, because of the nature of the storms, where they occur, when they occur, the temperature range in which they occur, that it's not a viable option."

French said the most optimistic estimates predict that cloud seeding will produce 10 percent more snowfall. Although that increase may help with water management, it's not enough to combat severe drought.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.