Cloud seeding generators are fired up in Cache County

A young man clears snow for an ice rink on the frozen Bear River near Benson. Cloud seeding began in December and will continue until the first of April to bolster the areas precipitation.

Cache Valley’s cloud seeding generators are up and running, trying to increase snow pack in the mountains said officials from North America Weather Consultants (NAWC) based in Sandy.

Cache County has 20 cloud seeding generators placed in strategic areas in an effort to increase precipitation.

Some of the state’s greatest snow on earth could be a product of weather modification, or cloud seeding. With Utah being the second driest state in the U.S. behind Nevada, it becomes almost essential to increase water supply as much as possible.

The reason for weather modification is to enhance winter snow pack accumulation in several targeted areas throughout the state. A majority of the annual runoff in Utah’s streams and rivers is derived from melting snow, which is the focus of wintertime seeding.

While some may be skeptical of the effects of cloud seeding, the National Science Foundation studied the effects of the practice on precipitation a year ago in January, and determined it works. There is indeed a correlation between cloud seeding and increased snow pack.

Today, NAWC has about 160 ground-based silver iodide generators. Potassium iodide and solid carbon dioxide can also be used. The chemicals are as harmless as table salt.

Cloud seeding generators are placed in valley or foothill locations upwind of the intended target mountain barriers near the mountains in Utah. Twenty of those generators are scheduled to be placed in Cache County, and Box Elder County will have nine generators.

Don Griffith, a meteorologist and President of North America Weather Consultants (NAWC), said their studies have shown cloud seeding continues to be a successful way of increasing snow pack.

Firing up cloud seeding generators usually begins December 1 and shuts down on April 1.

”We do a turnkey operation, we supply the generators then we take care of the propane. We hire people in the right places,” Griffith said. “We deliver and pick up the generators and do preventive maintenance.”

NAWC technicians find willing people to let them install generators in designated places then they install and service the generators.

“We’ve recorded positive results. It’s hard to say what would happen if we didn’t cloud seed, but the reports of what we have done are a pretty good result,” Griffith said.

NAWC has evaluated their results over 29 seasons and found an average of 8 percent increase in April 1 snow water content and an average of 8-12 percent increase in December through February 1 precipitation increase in the Cache and parts of Box Elder County target areas.

Beefing up the state’s snow pack enhances stream flow, which comes from melting snow. Even with residents doing what they can to conserve water, Utah’s agriculture industry uses 80 percent of Utah’s water.

The top agricultural products – livestock, crops, greenhouse and nursery products – all depend on nature’s liquid life.

The wet stuff also fuels revenue from camping, hunting, fishing, boating etc. The state’s electrical entities also have a heavy investment in water.

Some municipalities fund cloud seeding efforts to help with additional drinking water supply.

The practice of commercial cloud seeding in Utah has been going on since 1973-74, about the same time the state legislature authorized the Utah Division of Water Resources to both regulate and develop cloud seeding operations.

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