Los Angeles Approves Plan to Seed Clouds for Rain with Silver Iodide


Image from Unobtanium via flickr

How bad has the drought gotten in Los Angeles? Bad enough that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $800,000 cloud seeding proposal last week to elicit more rainfall for the drought-stricken Southland, reports the Pasadena Star-News' Jennifer McLain. This unorthodox practice has already been used several times over the last 5 decades to varying degrees of success (emphasis on "varying" here).

Particularly revealing were the comments made by the manager of a local municipal water district: "There are no assurances or guarantees that it will produce anything. But it doesn't hurt to try." This comes in the wake of Governor Schwarzenegger's declaration of a statewide drought. Originally developed during the 1940s, cloud seeding isn't exactly a novel technology, and there are several different methods. In Los Angeles, a company called North America Weather Consultants (NAWS) will set off flares above the San Gabriel Mountains to inject silver iodide into the atmosphere --specifically into clouds. The idea here is to coax the clouds into producing additional ice crystals and, hopefully, more rain.

The expectations are that the seeding could increase rainfall by 5 to 15 percent -- equivalent to producing enough water to supply up to 4,500 families of four for an entire year. The seeding will begin as soon as NAWS identifies the most appropriate locations at which to install its generators, most likely in 2010.

Not surprisingly, some have argued that the $800,000 should be spent on more effective, reliable -- and, above all, tested -- techniques, such as finding better ways to capture water. It could be worse: L.A. did once hire rain dancers to relieve drought-like conditions in the 1980s.

Via ::Pasadena Star-News: Hoping for rain (news website)

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Tags: Los Angeles