Precipitation formation from orographic cloud seeding
Significance Nearly two decades ago, the National Academy of Sciences commissioned the National Research Council (NRC) to report on Critical Issues in Weather Modification Research . The 2003 NRC report highlighted the need to address key uncertainties in our understanding of cloud seeding. Operational cloud seeding continues in nearly a dozen western states, despite a lack of any strong physical evidence supporting its effectiveness. Here, the full chain of events from ice initiation through crystal growth and fallout of snow has been documented. These observations are critical to our understanding of how cloud seeding works and will help direct future research efforts into the effectiveness of cloud seeding. Throughout the western United States and other semiarid mountainous regions across the globe, water supplies are fed primarily through the melting of snowpack. Growing populations place higher demands on water, while warmer winters and earlier springs reduce its supply. Water managers are tantalized by the prospect of cloud seeding as a way to increase winter snowfall, thereby shifting the balance between water supply and demand. Little direct scientific evidence exists that confirms even the basic physical hypothesis upon which cloud seeding relies. The intent of glaciogenic seeding of orographic clouds is to introduce aerosol into a cloud to alter the natural development of cloud particles and enhance wintertime precipitation in a targeted region. The hypothesized chain of events begins with the introduction of silver iodide aerosol into cloud regions containing supercooled liquid water, leading to the nucleation of ice crystals, followed by ice particle growth to sizes sufficiently large such that snow falls to the ground. Despite numerous experiments spanning several decades, no direct observations of this process exist. Here, measurements from radars and aircraft-mounted cloud physics probes are presented that together show the initiation, growth, and fallout to the mountain surface of ice crystals resulting from glaciogenic seeding. These data, by themselves, do not address the question of cloud seeding efficacy, but rather form a critical set of observations necessary for such investigations. These observations are unambiguous and provide details of the physical chain of events following the introduction of glaciogenic cloud seeding aerosol into supercooled liquid orographic clouds.
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