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Can Cloud Seeding Cure Nevada's Drought?


By Kurdistann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Can cloud seeding improve Nevada's drought conditions?

As Nevada and the southwest continue to fight drought conditions, the state senate is debating increasing funding for cloud seeding.

It's a process where scientists work to modify weather patterns in order to induce a greater amount of snowfall.

SB 423 would appropriate $500,000 to "support cloud seeding operations which are intended to increase the supply of water in Nevada."

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Pete Goicoechea (R-Dist. 35), who did not respond to repeated requests to appear during this segment.

According to Dan Breed, a project scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, scientists generally use silver iodide to seed clouds. The chemical is more effective at creating ice crystals in a cloud filled with super cold liquid water than it is done naturally.

Cloud seeding is generally done during a storm where there are lots of clouds filled with cold water, which is one of the reasons it can be difficult to do.

Breed points out that it can be difficult to track the effectiveness of cloud seeding because there are so many variables that impact its success.

Frank McDonough leads the cloud seeding program for Atmosphere Sciences division at the Desert Research Institute. The division seeded clouds this past winter in the Reno area in an effort to feed the Truckee River. 

Support comes from

“We’ve been able to help with the storms that have come through, but the number of storms that have come through are much below average,” McDonough said.

McDonough says they were able to add 10 percent to the snowpack. Although that is not a drought buster, it can help.

“It’s a little bridge to help the environment make it through the drought,” he said.


Dan Breed, Project Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Frank McDonough, leads cloud seeding program for Atmospheric Sciences division at the Desert Research Institute

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