cloud seeding

Conniemod, Wikipedia Creative Commons

Drought conditions are becoming more common across the West, and Wyoming lawmakers are looking at some ideas for how to conserve and replenish water resources. Last year, lawmakers failed to fully fund an $80 million dam project on the Wyoming-Colorado border, instead, giving about $5 million to try to persuade Colorado to join forces since ranchers there could benefit, too.

There are more than fifty potential projects being considered for inclusion in Wyoming’s Water Strategy. The strategy, which is being spearheaded by Governor Matt Mead, is intended to guide state investment in water development, management and conservation. The list of projects was developed through of a series of statewide public hearings and covers everything from building dams to clouding seeding to developing better public water databases.

The University of Wyoming has received a grant to expand the research capabilities of its King Air research airplane.

The National Science Foundation awarded the Department of Atmospheric Science $1.2 million and UW matched the grant with an additional $515,000 to develop and build an advanced remote sensing instrument.

Professor Zhien Wang is part of the team that will work with the instrumentation. He says the first project will be to study night storms, for better weather forecasting.

Cloud seeding may become more than an experimental endeavor in Wyoming, if recent proposals from the Wyoming Water Development Office are approved in the next session.

Harry LaBonde of the Development Office says they are optimistic about the projects getting funded. “One of the projects considered last week was to take the ten generators in the Wind River range, and convert them from a scientific program to an operational program,” he stated.

Irina Zhorov

How to deal with future variability in water supplies was the topic of conversation at a conference Wednesday about water use and energy development.

Wyoming Water Development Commission Director Harry LaBonde says managing the state’s water supply will require a multi-pronged approach: conservation, storage and weather modification, or cloud-seeding.

Irina Zhorov

It’s still not clear whether cloud seeding is an effective way to increase rainfall in arid parts of the country, but many in Wyoming hope that it works. 

University of Wyoming Atmospheric Science Professor Bart Geerts won the first-ever National Institutes for Water Resources Program IMPACT award , which recognizes the nation's best federal research projects.  He’s been conducting research on Cloud Seeding in Wyoming.                   

Irina Zhorov

Wyoming is host to two of the world’s most comprehensive weather modification studies. The studies are unique due to our geography, but they’re also more comprehensive than past research has been. And the water-hungry world is waiting for results. Irina Zhorov reports. 

Officials say a cloud seeding research project in Wyoming needs two more years and another $2.4 million to be considered scientifically complete.

Cloud seeding is a form of intentional weather modification -- usually an attempt to change the amount of precipitation by dispersing substances into the air that alter processes within the cloud.

The state has invested about $11 million in the project since 2005. The project seeks to determine whether cloud seeding increases the amount of snowpack in several Wyoming mountain ranges.