Researchers look to answer if cloud seeding increases snowpack

Research is being done in Idaho.

With all of this year's snowfall, drought may be one of the last things people are thinking about. However, with water shortages happening throughout the world, researchers are looking to cloud seeding as a potential way to increase water supplies. It’s research that's being done in the Gem State.

Researchers from all across the region, including Boise State University just wrapped up a 10-week cloud seeding project in southwestern Idaho. Cloud seeding is a process where scientists will drop silver iodide out of plane, which is then absorbed into the clouds. The iodide will then form more snow crystals inside the cloud, leading to snow.

"The more snow crystals get going, they create more snow as it falls out downrange," Mel Kunkel with Idaho Power said.

Idaho Power has been cloud seeding since the early 2000s, but research is getting better every year. The most recent, SNOWIE, is looking into if cloud seeding actually increases snowfall and snowpack.

"Does it increase the amount of precipitation? If so, under what conditions is it most affective? Under what conditions did it not work well?" atmospheric scientist Dr. Jeff French said.

French came to Idaho from the University of Wyoming to study cloud seeding.

"That amount of increase is still widely debated, anywhere from no increase at all, to maybe a few percent," French said.

However, Idaho Power says any extra precipitation can help in the long-term results.

"We look at cloud seeding as a long-term water management process. So you seed every year because weather models are getting much better. In general, we're not really sure what's happening in a month from now," Kunkel said.

French says they plan to keep the study going for another three to six years. He added they can't release their findings from this year as they're still waiting for them to be publicized.

KTVB


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