A Silver Lining in Western Clouds?


Recent investigations in cloud-seeding suggest there could be literal truth in the proverbial saying “every cloud has a silver lining.” Researchers from three Universities, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the Idaho Power Company collaborated over the Winter of 2017 to determine, once and for all, if seeding clouds with silver iodide actually works.

The project dubbed SNOWIE, short for Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime clouds, used sophisticated ground and aircraft radar to determine if releasing silver iodide into clouds would initiate ice crystal formation resulting in snowfall.

Their results? A definite ‘Yes.’

Investigators “saw clear and unambiguous signals that releasing silver iodide particles was initiating ice crystal formation and that these crystals were growing into snow and falling to the mountain’s surface.”  This is welcome news to arid western states, especially the seven states whose livelihood is wed to the flow of the Colorado River.

In the year 2000, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, our nation’s two largest reservoirs on the Colorado River, were full. Over the last 18 years, the elevation of both lakes has dropped dramatically. As of May 12th, 2018, the water level of Lake Mead was at 1083 feet; 146 feet below “full pool” and only 8 feet away from1075 feet, the level where shortage restrictions are initiated. A shortage declaration has been on the minds of most western water managers for the last few years.

Could cloud-seeding help save the Colorado River? SNOWIE researchers can’t say for sure, but they are hopeful. Their next step is “to see whether it can change the balance of water over an entire mountain range.” If they can, their efforts will be worth more gold than silver.

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