Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Invention Spotlight: Cloud Seeding

The procedure of cloud seeding was discovered in 1946 by Vincent Schaefer, a meteorologist who worked as a researcher for General Electric. The controversial discovery was later refined by Schaefer's colleague Dr. Bernard Vonnegut.

Cloud seeding calls for chemicals, such as silver iodide or frozen carbon dioxide (known as dry ice), to be dispersed into the clouds in order to induce rain. These chemicals can be distributed into the sky via airplane, or via canisters launched from anti-aircraft guns or rockets.

Although the purpose of cloud seeding is to stimulate the the fall of precipitation, it has been noted that the process may also be a precipitation suppressant.

Cloud seeding has had its share of advocates and detractors. The advocates claim that cloud seeding can cure the ills brought on by drought, and can help better air quality. However, the detractors have noted that the bad way outweighs the good. Cloud seeding can have out of control results. It has also been used for sinister purposes.

It has been said that from March 1967 through July 1972, cloud seeding was used by the U.S. Military in an operation called "Operation Popeye." This operation used cloud seeding to extend the monsoon season in Vietnam; carrying out the pithy motto of "make mud, not war."

Cloud seeding has also be noted by some, as the reason for the hard rainfall that permeated throughout the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

Once put into action, the results of cloud seeding cannot be controlled. According to Times Online, it is believed that in 1952, "rainmaking experiments caused 90 million tons of water to fall into the Lynmouth Valley in North Devon, killing 35 people. Survivors said that the air smelt of sulphur and that the rain fell so hard that it hurt people's faces." Also, cloud seeding experiments performed in California during the late 70s "caused devastating floods in a part of the San Gabriel Mountains called Big Tunjunga Canyon, killing 11 people and causing $43 million of damage." Times Online also states that after the Big Tunjunga Canyon flooding, "many residents sued Los Angeles County, claiming that cloud seeding had worsened the rainfall." Although "the county prevailed in court, they stopped all rainmaking experiments until 1991."

It seems that cloud seeding is currently being used by various governments across the globe. The controlling nature of some officials is causing them to carelessly ignore what can happen when you play with mother nature.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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