Photo Credit Simmons Ranch Lewis Colorado
By Dawn Brunson
Doing more than just complaining about the weather.
Weather modification is certainly not new, but did you know that cloud seeding for snowpack is actively happening here in the Mancos area? Cloud seeding for rain and snow can be done from the ground, by drones or airplanes. Some techniques can disperse fog, mitigate hail, reduce lightning, and remove smog as well as modify hurricanes. I have included a link to the Weather Chanel article on the 70th anniversary of the first hurricane seeding experiment. A discovery by scientists Vincent Schaefer and Irving Langmuir working in the General Electric Laboratories in 1946, found that by introducing dry ice (solid Carbon Dioxide) they could induce the water to freeze into ice. GE Labs reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense to carry out experiments where Armed Services aircraft would “seed” the clouds with dry ice, named Project Cirrus. The photo shown is of the Project Cirrus Crew and Scientists in front of the B-17 used in the hurricane seeding. Here is the link to the Weather Nation 70th Anniversary of the first hurricane seeding experiment article. Spoiler Alert, it was a disaster.
photo cred: [Project Cirrus crew and scientists pose in front of B-17 used in the hurricane seeding. From US Navy]
In an interview with Ken Curtis the general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, he indicated that the DWCD has participated in weather modification in our area for more than 20 years. “We only add to what Mother Nature provides, we cannot create the snow clouds,” said Ken.
photo credit Waterinfo.org
The devices are known as cloud-seeding Nuclei Generators. The contractor finds locations to set up the generators on the ground that are 10 to 20 miles from the target area depending on prevailing winds. Once the right weather conditions are identified, the generator burns Silver Iodide through a propane flume, which vaporizes the solution and creates artificial ice nuclei, winds then carry the product into the clouds. Most of the generators in the Southwest Colorado area are on private property. Placing the generators on private property allows for greater security and eliminates the need for forest service permits. The contractor for our area generators is Western Weather Consultants, LLC, a family-owned business out of Durango. Eric Hjermstad, Director of Field operations with Western Weather Consultants indicated that there are approximately 10 to 20 generators in our area located from Pagosa Springs to Mancos. Our area has 5 remote-controlled ground-based generators, the remaining are manual-operated generators. The landowner that has the manual generators is supplied a small amount of compensation to operate the generator when the weather conditions necessitate the generator to be fired up. Eric’s father took part in the pilot projects. Here is a link to a video of the Colorado River Basin cloud seeding pilot project circa 1971:
The DWCD budget for weather modification is $18,500.00 per year. $17,500 for the program with $1,000.00 going for miscellaneous maintenance of the propane-fired generator that DWCD owns.
photo credit to Ken
The collaboration starts with the Colorado Water Conservation Board who administers the state’s cloud seeding program by issuing needed permits and supplying the funding. In an interview with Colorado Water Conservation Boards Andrew Rickert, Program Director, and Sara Leonard, Marketing and Communications Director, they indicated that their program is solely seeding for snowpack and estimate that the cloud seeding increases the snowpack 8% to 12% with the approximate 20 remote and 85 manual generators total, including the 20 in our area from Pagosa Springs, Telluride, Durango and Mancos. The only area that had aerial cloud seeding was North Park last season. The seeding generally starts in late November and continues through late March.
The following breakdown from Andrew Rickert of CWCB for Colorado Weather Modification Budget:
Lower Basin Funding for this year: $422,000
California’s Six Agency Committee (SAC): $134,000
Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD): $134,000
Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA): $134,000-
New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (NMISC): $20,000
State of Colorado Funding for this year: $430,000
Money from the CWCB Projects Bill: $350,000
Money from Severance Tax Operational Fund: $80,000
Local Funding for this year: Around $500,000 (Ski Resorts, Water Conservancy Districts, utility companies, ditch companies, etc.). Andrew would estimate that they probably have 40+ local project participants that provide funding to Colorado’s weather modification programs.
Next look, what is geoengineering?