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Cloud Seeding: A Modern Technology bringing Rain to Deserts

Cloud Seeding, Image credit: Wikimedia

Society is keeping pace with the advanced technologies. One such example of technological advancement impacting social change is the cloud seeding technology.

Cloud Seeding

Cloud seeding is a weather modification technique. It generates artificial rain by injecting particles such as silver iodide crystals into clouds. A solution containing a small quantity of silver iodide is burnt by ground-based generators or launched from aircraft. When they hit the clouds, the silver iodide acts as an ice-forming nuclei to help in the production of snowflakes, which in turn results in rainfall.

History of cloud seeding

Since the 1940s, cloud seeding has been in use. Cloud seeding was first widely used in the Vietnam War in 1975. The United States used the cloud seeding technique to increase the length of the monsoon season in Vietnam. The US used the weather as an instrument to win the war. This particular incident is well-remembered by the name “Operation Popeye.”

Another significant use of cloud seeding was during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China used the technology to dissolve the severe-rain-causing clouds and ensured that the opening ceremony of the Olympics scheduled in Beijing happened without a drop of rain. To date, China has the highest use of cloud seeding in the world. In India, the Tamil Nadu government also used the cloud seeding technique in 1983-87 to combat severe drought.

Cloud Seeding in the United States

Cloud seeding has long been an element of water management efforts in the United States. It is used widely in California and Texas. Recent examples show its significance in reducing water scarcity. It has increased snowfall levels in mountainous areas. However, the efficiency of these programs continues to be up for discussion. There is still a dispute regarding their cost-effectiveness and ecological integrity.

Cloud Seeding in Australia

Australia, a continent marked by harsh climate extremes, has also embraced cloud seeding for weather control. Recent initiatives in Western Australia and New South Wales aim to increase rainfall in drought-affected areas. While initial results are promising, the ethical dimensions of manipulating natural processes loom large.

Cloud Seeding in Thailand

Thailand’s attempt at cloud seeding underscores its appeal as a solution to water insecurity. Facing recurrent droughts and irregular precipitation patterns, Thailand has explored cloud seeding as a means of augmenting rainfall during critical periods. However, the country is concerned about the ethical implications of changing atmospheric dynamics and the uncertainty of the results of such interventions.

Cloud Seeding in UAE

United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the first Arabian Gulf countries to implement cloud seeding techniques. The UAE is one such location where the sight of rain often makes local news headlines. The residents are more or less acquainted with the dry climate there. But over the last two decades, UAE has been carrying out successful cloud seeding missions with good results of rain.

It has helped the UAE in improving both the probability as well as the amount of rain. UAE is making the most out of the new-age technologies to monitor the country’s atmosphere and take necessary steps to combat its issues. The UAE now wants to be the global hub for rain augmentation, which would improve water security globally in arid and semi-arid areas.

Advantages of cloud seeding

l Rain creation: Cloud seeding is the best way to improve rainfall quantity in inadequate areas. Rain helps to keep places fertile and hydrated for farming.

l Boosts the Economy: Agriculture is vital to the local economies of many countries across the world. Rain contributes to a healthy crop, which benefits the community’s economy. Additionally, cloud seeding is used to raise living standards in poor or dry weather.

l Weather Regulation: If some weather conditions are not adequately controlled, they might be hazardous to the ecosystem. Cloud seeding allows for the management of prevailing meteorological conditions in many places. However, it is primarily used to increase the amount of rain. It can also reduce precipitation, which could develop into storms that cause widespread harm.

l Reduction of crop damage: Precipitation could cause a hailstorm, which could harm or destroy crops. Cloud seeding alters the formation of storm clouds, making them less dangerous to crops.

l Makes dry places more livable: Cloud seeding brings rain and makes the natural environment flourish and become more habitable.

l Increases employment: Cloud seeding creates a favourable climate for agriculture. New farming techniques lead to more job opportunities for unemployed people. More use of these practices may expand to arid places where cloud seeding has been successful. It would create new agro-economic potential. Cloud seeding also necessitates the use of trained employees to be successful. That would make it an excellent opportunity for professional development.

Disadvantages of cloud seeding

l Use of harmful chemicals: Cloud seeding necessitates the usage of chemicals, some of which may be hazardous to the natural environment. This is particularly true for plants that rely on contaminated rain to create food. Iodism, a kind of iodine poisoning, has been on the rise. It causes serious side effects in humans, including skin rashes, headaches, and running noses, among other symptoms.

l Expensive: Cloud seeding is essentially the production of artificial rain, which is an extremely costly procedure.

l Dependence on atmospheric condition: Some uncontrollable variables must be met for cloud seeding to be successful. The most critical requirement is the presence of clouds, and not just any clouds, but clouds capable of producing rain. The meteorological circumstances must also suit the process, as certain situations may result in unexpected consequences, such as rain falling in an unexpected spot or not falling at all.

l Impact of long-term exposure: The more plants, animals, and the entire livelihood are exposed to the chemicals stored in water bodies and soil deposits, they are at risk of developing health issues.

Critics argue cloud seeding is an irresponsible attempt to control natural processes. However, the supporters argue its a practical solution to water challenges in water-stressed regions.

As we discuss the challenging conditions of climate adaptation, cloud seeding emerges as a symbol of humanitys struggle to balance technological innovation with ecological responsibility. Its promise lies in its efficacy and our ability to approach it with humility and foresight. In a world dealing with the existential threat of climate change, the ethical imperatives of cloud seeding require our full attention.

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