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Artificial rain

Northern hemisphere countries continue to experience heat waves, wildfires, and catastrophic drought, spurring climate scientists and technologists to experiment with the weather. Now, most interesting question comes to someone's mind is, can humans control weather? The answer is Yes, to some extent, humans can control the weather.

Cloud seeding, often known as artificial rain, is commonly employed nowadays to supply water to drought-stricken areas. However, it has been abused in the past.


China is currently experiencing its longest heat wave on record, with temperatures in the Sichuan province consistently reaching 40 degrees Celsius. The heat is driving the Yangtze, Asia's longest river, to reach the record lowest level, triggering a drought that, according to China's Ministry of Water Resources, is adversely affecting the drinking water of rural people in the country, its livestock, as well as agricultural growth.

In response to the dire situation, the Chinese government undertook an effort to induce rainfall through a process known as "cloud seeding."


What is the process of cloud seeding?


Clouds arise as water vapor-containing air rises into the atmosphere. It cools, and condenses into ice particles. A cloud arises when enough of the particles clump together. The frozen particles mix inside the cloud. When the combined droplets become large and heavy enough, they fall to the ground as rain, snow, or hail, depending on the temperature and other weather conditions.


Cloud seeding involves the addition of microscopic particles of silver iodide, a salt with a crystalline structure similar to that of ice, to clouds. This operation can be carried out using a plane or a drone, or the particles can be blasted up from the ground.


According to scientists, the technology allows water vapour inside clouds to be "tricked" into producing droplets surrounding the silver iodide particles. When these droplets get some weight, a process with the addition of silver iodide, they fall down from the clouds in form of precipitation.



Practical examples of cloud seeding:

In the 1940s, scientists at the General Electric Research Laboratory in the United States undertook the first experiments at cloud seeding. The approach is now employed in many countries throughout the world. China is the most recent example, and the method was previously used to make it rain before of the 2008 Summer Olympics.


Russia also used cloud seeding before of major holidays to prevent rain from ruining public celebrations. In order to assure a dry May Day celebration, Russia reportedly spent 86 million rubles (1.44 million euros or 1.43 million USD) in 2016. The weather in Moscow was sunny on the day of the event.


Today, the method is largely utilised to make it rain in drought-stricken areas. Aside from China, the United Regions has been practising cloud seeding, most notably in drought-stricken western states like as Idaho and Wyoming.


In the Vietnam War, the US used cloud seeding as a weapon to extend the monsoon season, interrupting the Viet Cong's supply chain and impeding their movement by making the land muddy with more rain.


In April 1986, Soviet air force aircraft seeded clouds travelling toward Russian communities near Chornobyl, where a nuclear power facility had just detonated. Moscow deemed the operation a success because the radioactive clouds did not reach Russian cities. Instead, they showered radioactive waste on rural Belarusian districts and the hundreds of thousands of people who lived there.


Why is cloud seeding contentious?

These latter two examples demonstrate how technology intended for the greater good may always be abused by those in positions of authority. Other variables, though, have some experts questioning whether cloud seeding is a wise idea.


One argument is that if you seed clouds over your region to prevent dryness, those clouds will not convey rain to the next region, where it would have delivered much-needed rain.


"If you make it rain in one spot, you minimise rain downstream," said David Keith, a Harvard University professor of applied physics.


Keith compared the process to "robbing Peter to pay Paul," referring to his studies on the nexus of climate science, technology, and policy.


"It simultaneously produces winner and loser," he explained.


Experts also warn that regulating the weather may be too difficult to accomplish and that it may divert attention away from traditional ways to combat climate change.


"Geoengineering, especially large-scale cloud seeding, is a risky experiment that can go away and have unanticipated repercussions," Vinas added.


"We should invest in adaptation and mitigation strategies if we wish to lessen the impacts of droughts or storms, which are especially severe in the context of present global warming."

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