Equipment/Technology, North America, Weather/Climate

Making clouds rain with electricity

“Get the hail off my crop and start making it rain on the plain with a plane”, farmers might be saying as new technology emerges. In mankind’s eternal quest to milk the clouds for rain, the latest and perhaps most promising technology involves a Cessna spray plane flying into clouds, releasing electrostatically charged water droplets.

As Ron Lyseng reports for The Western Producer, the Weather Modification cloud seeding project is headed by engineer Dan Martin working out of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) research unit at College Station, Texas.

USDA scientists determined that water can be coaxed out of clouds if the drops are activated by a small electrical charge. In the rain enhancement project, meteorologists identify which cloud formations have the best rain potential on any particular day. The spray plane is sent to those clouds.

When Martin began delving into the electric approach to cloud seeding, his new CCN became a small droplet of charged water. The flare system worked, but he wanted a better CCN.

“We charge the droplet because we know the cloud has it’s own charge. We give our droplets an opposite charge so water in the cloud is attracted and bonds to it. Our charged droplet grows until it’s heavy enough to fall to Earth as rain.”

Martin says ‘Weather Mod’ may also prevent hail or at least soften the impact of hail. Rain enhancement might turn golf-ball-sized hail into pea-sized hail, thus preventing a lot of crop damage. Martin says, “Any ag spray plane can be outfitted with an electrostatic system. Any competent aerial applicator can be trained to make it rain.”

Source: The Western Producer. Read the full story here
Photo: Cloud seeding has been used for more than 20 years to protect crops from hail in Texas. Only recently have researchers realized its potential to enhance rainfall. The current project used agricultural spray planes with booms capable of electrically charging water droplets as they exit the nozzles | Courtesy USDA

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