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Cloud seeding in Utah: We do it in winter, why not summer like Dubai?

A boat and jet skis ride the waves in front of the Dubai Marina in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, July 19, 2021. Dubai sometimes uses cloud seeding to provide moisture and cooling on extremely hot days. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

SALT LAKE CITY — Cloud seeding, in which people artificially boost the likelihood that a cloud will produce precipitation, helps communities all over the world increase their snowpacks. And during the extreme drought conditions across the west, some experts say we should consider cloud seeding in the summer, not just the winter. 

Enveloped in a smoky haze from Western wildfires, Utah’s exceptional drought leaves state leaders waiting — and praying — for rain. But what if we didn’t have to wait or pray and could make our own rainfall by cloud seeding? 

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates makes its own fake rain. The city uses electrical charges in order to beat the summer heat when temperatures regularly surpass 120 F. Could the same technique work in Utah? 

How does cloud seeding work?

Utah has been cloud seeding since the 1950s to boost the state’s water reservoirs, according to state water watchers. But it takes place in the wintertime. Ground-based seeders along foothills and higher elevations shoot silver iodide into winter clouds where it helps form ice crystals.

Statistical analysis shows an average increase in precipitation of 5%-15% in seeded areas at a cost of about $2.18 per acre-foot for the additional water, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources.

Read more: USU studying impact of wildfires on reservoirs

Garrett Cammans, president of North American Weather Consultations joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic to explain how cloud seeding works in Utah.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Would the Dubai approach, with drones delivering an electric charge to air molecules in clouds, work in Utah? 

“We’re not drier than Dubai, but our weather patterns are different, and the weather patterns that we have in Utah favor wintertime precipitation,” Cammans said.

He would like to see more research on the cloud-seeding program used in Dubai. In particular, he wants to know whether that precipitation comes inadvertently from areas downwind of a storm, robbing them of live-saving rain.

“Our seeding efforts are shown to have a very minimal downstream or downwind effect, meaning that when we seed in Utah, we’re not decreasing the moisture in any sort of significant or measurable amount when the storm proceeds further into Colorado.

“With this technology from Dubai, we might kill a storm early, and so we want to be conscientious of that as well,” Cammans said.

Safe for environment?

He said all the cloud-seeding in Utah happens from the ground. No planes are used; therefore no jet fuel can foul the atmosphere. He also said silver and iodide are safe for the environment.

“Silver’s biologically inert,” Cammans said. “Iodine is actually a helpful additive that you’ll see in foods like table salt or baby formula.”

But sometimes too much of a good thing isn’t.

In Oregon, Hood River seeding was used by Portland General Electric to produce snow for hydro power in 1974-1975. The effort produced substantial results, but also caused an undue burden on the locals. Oregonians experienced overpowering rainfall, causing street collapses and mudslides. PGE discontinued its seeding practices the next year.

After eight cloud-seeding operations in a matter of days in October 2019, flooding in Dubai’s Discovery Gardens neighborhood forced officials to bring in water pumps. 

Read more: Bringing in the rain: Has the UAE’s cloud-seeding program gone too far?

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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