Water is a resource that many are going without; typical water-scarce populations have been hammered by droughts brought on by the effects of climate change. One new technology is already being implemented that is hoping to change that, and our perception of how previously naturally occurring processes can be engineered to help humans survive on this planet. Cloud seeding involves modifying the weather to improve a cloud’s capacity to produce condensation. China has already utilized this technology to increase rainfall over especially-arid regions. The benefits include better crop yields, more food, and more drinking water for a growing population.
Water vapor rises into the sky through the naturally occurring water cycle and proceeds to coalesce around tiny particles like dust in the sky, turning into a liquid. The tiny particles are called condensation nuclei, and without them, rain or snow cannot occur. After billions of these water-dust hybrid particles form, a cloud takes shape. To facilitate this process, companies or governments will use silver iodide as condensation nuclei to promote rain or snow formation. There are two known ways to get silver iodide into the atmosphere: either through cannons that shoot it up, or planes that drop it down. When a storm is approaching, interested parties will place silver iodide in its path to provide more nuclei for the condensation to grab onto.
Ski resorts and hydroelectric companies implement cloud seeding to increase snowfall. More snow for the patrons, and more water runoff once melted for power generation. It is also occasionally used around airports to promote the transition from fog to rain, thus having it fall to the ground and clearing the runway. In certain areas, the practice has been used to reduce the damage and abundance of hail. Despite this, many aren’t sure it’s worth the trouble. Cloud seeding has seen results but not very significant ones. At most, it can increase precipitation by 10-14% percent with current technology. This isn’t negligible, and further research is needed to unlock the potential of cloud seeding. Some governments have embraced it, like China or Russia. However, the verdict is still out on whether the United States will provide funding to study the phenomenon. Right now, it has been deemed too unproven to elicit any significant government spending, other than testing as a weapon. That hasn’t stopped private companies from exploring the technology further. Soon we may be creating artificial thunderstorms sure to ruin your day, but also water your crops.