Cloudbusting, also called cloud-seeding, is traditionally a technique whereby clouds are injected or sprayed with
certain chemicals to make them produce rain. The technique was first discovered by accident in the 1940s by a scientist
who was conducting experiments in a cloud chamber, a sealed laboratory environment used to simulate atmospheric
conditions. When dry ice was introduced into the chamber to aid cooling, the scientist noted that the production of
clouds increased due to the chemicals (silver iodide) found in the dry ice itself.
The initial discoveries led to widespread
tinkering with clouds
during the decades which followed, with funding during 1970s in the US peaking at nearly $20 million per year.
Eventually, interest in the procedure waned, due primarily to the lack of verifiable proof that the efforts to
increase rain were having a positive effect. More recently, during the late 1990s, new
was compiled which proves beyond a reasonable doubt that cloudbusting does work. The experiments showed
rainfall from seeded clouds lasts longer and spreads farther than that from unseeded clouds. In some cases the amount
of rain from seeded clouds was twice as much as from those which weren't seeded. During the same period, many cloud
seeding operations around the world were being revitalized, and modern weather modification operations are now growing
One well-established cloud-seeding operation in the US is to be found in George Bush's home
state of Texas. The
South Texas Weather Modification Association (STWMA)
was formed in 1996. In 1998, the
Edwards Aquifier Authority
in Texas set aside $500,000 for cloud seeding, and in coordination with the STWMA, convinced then-Governor George W.
Bush's administration to suspend regulations requiring a permit to seed clouds, which allowed efforts to begin
immediately. Since that time several distinct weather-modification associations have begun operations in Texas, and at
Texas A&M one can find
which provide introductory overviews and maps demonstrating the effects of cloud seeding operations there.
indicates that cloud-seeding efforts continue in the dry and arid counties of southwest Texas.
are plenty of other cloud-seeding operations to be found across the US, including those in
among others. In Colorado, more than $700,000 was spent just last winter, in their
to increase the water levels in the parched watersheds of Denver and the critical snowpack on the states ski areas.
The cloud-seeding efforts in Colorado covered an area more than 6000 square miles last winter, at a total cost of $1.2
million - that's the largest cloud-seeding expense ever in Colorado, and possibly in the entire US. At least
have licensed weather modification programs now. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers is currently
seeking public commentary
on cloud seeding standards in the US.
And the US isn't the only place where cloud-seeding is catching on. From
cloud seeding is being used to successfully increase rainfall in and around critical aquifiers and water-storage areas.
In the Phillipines, where El Niño damage is
this year, cloud seeding efforts are being pushed forward to minimize the effect on local sugar producers.
And in Australia they're not just utilizing dancing naked women to bring rain - cloud-seeding has
been standard procedure for several years now. Tasmanian Hydro has a
of cloud-seeding, which they use to raise the levels of important aquifiers in certain parts of the country. The
program may, in fact, work too well. Early in April when Tasmanian Hydro
to seed clouds later in the month, the local tourism industy
and threatened a lawsuit to stop the efforts. They worried that local tourism might be affected during the peak season
at the beginning of winter. Eventually, Tasmanian Hydro reportedly postponed their cloud seeding until later in June,
when it's colder.
As previously mentioned, rain-making isn't all about science and statistical analysis. A "thought provoking" program in
New Zealand, called
Takitimu Weather Modification
relies on the
Human Energy Field
to modify the weather, in coordination with use of the latest cloud-seeding technologies. The folks at Takitimu
won't publish the details of their technique, ostensibly to
protect indigenous knowledge systems
but presumably also because they're concerned about misuse of the techniques for military purposes, instead
of simply for bringing on the rain.
Indeed, weather modification has long been considered and used for military ends - the military potential of
weather modification as an important weapon has been recognized since the 1950s. During the Vietnam war, the US used
cloud seeding to
produce heavy rains
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, for example. But the potentially devastating effects on civilians and legal ramifications
of militaristic storm-brewing finally led to a UN resolution in 1977 which prohibited the hostile use of weather
modification. Nevertheless, the influence of the weather on military activities is well known, and the US and other
governments have spent plenty of time and money
investigating the techniques.
In 1996 the DoD produced an important and lengthy paper entitled
Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in
a study designed to investigate the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States will require to remain
the dominant air and space force in the future.
It's been widely hinted that the US already has the power to manipulate the weather for it's own military purposes. And
they're certainly not being completely secretive about it, either. The US military would very much like to
own the weather
although it's generally accepted that the techniques for doing so have already been "dispersed" around the world, since
the breakup of the former Soviet Union. The Chinese, for example, have a clause in their
Regulations on Administration of Weather Modification
which specifically states that weather modification for military purposes will be carried out. In light of that fact,
it might not be long before
al Qaeda is blamed for killer storms. Indeed,
it's been shown recently that, during the early days of cloud seeding,
many deaths were caused
by inexperienced scientists who were tinkering with a large storm in England.
In any case, manipulating the weather clearly has the potential to be a Good Thing, as well as a weapon. As a science,
it's been on the "back burner" for a number of years as stated previously, but now some scientists are now looking much
harder at the potential for doing "good" with weather modification. One of the most exciting possibilities involves
altering the course of hurricanes.
While many feel that this sort of technology is still many years off, it's certainly on the minds of visionary
scientists such as Russ Hoffman, a research with
Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc.,
a research company devoted to studying and predicting the weather. Elsewhere, Stephen Salter, an English scientist who
demonstrated innovative and visionary thinking in the field of
has recently announced plans to use
wind turbines to make rain.
And while some call his idea far-fetched, Dr. Salter is certainly no shaman. And possibly most interesting of all, a
recent finding has opened speculation that rain clouds are often seeded, not by dust and chemicals, but by
microbes and living organisms
high up in the atmosphere. A finding which may lead to brand new techniques for seeding clouds, and possibly leading to
the discovery of a completely new ecosystem in the clouds.
Ahead of the
World Water Forum - 2003,
which was held last March, the UN released a grim report which Gordon Young, director of the World Water
Assessment Program at UNESCO, called an
The report stated that, by 2050, water scarcity will affect more than two thirds of the world's population. And while
the World Water Forum was widely
for producing "watered down" goals and plans, it's ultimately clear that there have been
plenty of warnings
regarding the urgency of the situation. Weather modification and cloudbusting, while not formally considered at the
World Water Forum, brings a drop of hope on a dry and dismal future.