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The first snow of the year came to Hebei, the northern province surrounding Beijing. In the Chinese capital, it was the first real bout of precipitation since last October. The blizzard caused 12 area highways around Beijing to close.
Travel inconveniences aside, the blast of moisture was more than welcome in China, which is suffering through its worst drought in decades. Earlier this week, government officials announced that even the country's massive water projects, like the North-South Water Transfer Projectcouldn't hope to deal with future shortages—the country would have to cut back its demand as well.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Chinese government wanted to claim a little credit for the good weather fortune, and they have. Officials said their cloud-seeding program directly caused the snowstorm.
Engineers blasted more than cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide into the sky shortly before the storm, and a senior engineer told Reuters that it was "a procedure that made the snow a lot heavier. But how do they work?
And can you really claim that cloud seeding caused a particular storm? We asked cloud-seeding expert Arlen Hugginsassociate research scientist in the division of atmospheric sciences at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev.
Clouds, whether in summer or winter, are not perfectly efficient at producing precipitation. There's some part of a storm that's much less than percent efficient in turning clouds into precipitation. In winter, the problem is that there aren't sufficient ice crystals.
If droplets fall in liquid form they generally evaporate. The idea is to add ice-forming particles.
One thing people discovered early on is that the structure is very similar to that of ice. The lattice structure at the molecular level is very, very close. We think that's why ice wants to bond to it.
When did scientists get serious about experimenting with cloud seeding? I think it was the day after they finished the experiments in the lab [chuckles].
The initial discoveries were in the s, with substances like silver iodide. It was a short period before they started trying to affect larger systems, without much success. Wasn't Kurt Vonnegut's brother one of the lead scientists in the s? Bernard Vonnegut, the older brother of the late novelist Kurt, uncovered silver iodide's weather-modifying properties as a researcher for General Electric in He later taught atmospheric science at the State University of New York at Albany before passing away in My initial experiences were using cloud seeding to try to reduce hail fall.
This was in northeast Colorado, where they don't get the massive hail people get in the Midwest, but they got it at a higher frequency. It turned into more of a research project into how hail and thunderstorms work.
There was very little evidence that seeding was reducing hail, but we had some success later in increasing snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas, and more success in the mountains of Utah. We were able, in some instances, to monitor the chain of events, following the storms with aircraft.
Now we're studying the actual snow for trace concentrations of the seeding material to see how effective the procedure was.
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Plenty of scientists and organizations have tried to write off cloud seeding. Why does it keep coming back? It keeps coming back because of the demand for water, especially the dire straits of the arid Southwest.It can be tricky for women to find a great interview suit — but our shopping guide for women’s suits will help you get started.
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