TED Conversations

Mitch SMith


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The case for cloud-seeding

It is quite evident that most states in the world now conduct cloud seeding.

Cloud seeding is not all that new, in my youth it was common in the apple growing districts to shoot skyrockets above possible hail formations to disrupt the coalsecence of hail stones and reduce their impact on the crops. I believe the active chemical used was silver nitrate.

The more common chemical seen in modern cloud seeding is silver iodide. This nucleates rain drops which then gather electrostatically into cloud.

You will recognise them for their whispy-feathery appearance, which may or may not form into rain clouds - depending on the ambient humidity.

The presence of cloud seeding was first noticed by conspiracy theorists as "chemtrails", agianst which no official refutation was poffered - because no public agreement was sought for the practice.

I can think of some good reasons for cloud seeding - wildfire mittigation, cachement optimisation (water-supply dams) or even mittigation of global warming.

We don't know the justifications because we were not consulted. And the debate was never undertaken.

Let's have the debate now.

To kick it off, i will opose the practice and state as my opening arguement that: cloud seeding is vandalism of the sky.

Please state and argue your case:

For and against.


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    Nov 25 2012: I am against cloud seeding because the long-term effects with respect to local and non-local environmental impact are not well-documented. I am unaware of any scientific study results showing the global impact of disbursing silver-iodine, a known toxic substance, into the atmosphere. Also, significantly altering natural, long-range precipitation levels must be recognized as a major impact on the environment, and therefore must be better understood than it is now. The potential for global impact is sufficient to warrant further research before implementation.
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      Nov 25 2012: Thank you for your perspective Edward.
      There is another angle to this - and that is the one of opportunity.
      My state is conducting cloud seeding in order to extend the ski season in the local snow fields.
      What is not being made public is the operation going on over my head - far from the snow fields. I can guess why it is being done here because I am on the catchment area for a major city water-supply dam that was drying-up.
      However, to my knowledge, anyone can commission cloud seeding for whatever purpose with the appropriate aprovals. This approval process is not well known and might not even be sought.
      from what I understand, most the cloud seeding is conducted by private aviation companies. One can imagine that having such an adjunct "product" would be a boon to an otherwise cash-starved industry.
      So the issue is "nanny-state" against due dilligence.
      It is the same as gun laws. How much power can humans manage responsibly? Can we control it, should we control it? Should we just let people extinct themselves? Is there any alternative?
      Anyway, that's somewhat off topic.

      Here, I have stated two "for" cases" - extended commercial snow-season, and mittigation of water shortage.
      I note that these are very short-term advantages - but on the other hand, no one has any idea about the long term beyond policy that just "feels right" or may have some historical political advantage.
      At the very least, I think people have a right to access what is actually known..
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        Nov 25 2012: Well spoken sir. However, I will stress the importance of knowing long-term effects of activities which could have a domino effect on the planet. The silver-iodine risks need to be understood and mitigated. As an example, the dams that destroyed the Aral Sea had huge advantages associated with them, far greater than extended ski seasons, but no one looked at the big picture. I think another example is the cell phone which MAY cause brain cancer. Anyway, I remain with the anti-cloud seeding group. Showering the sky with poison should be prohibited until we know it is not as bad an idea as it sounds.
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          Nov 26 2012: I Agree, but I would like to see the "Pro" case argued.
          Silver iodide is indeed classed as a poisin, but the toxicology does not seem exhaustive.
          In the case of cloud seeding over my locality, it will all end up in the water supply of 7 million people. I'm not sure how the concentrations will pan-out. However, having watched about 20.000 litres of hydaulic fluid go rolling down the creek into that particular dam, I suppose it's moot whether the silver iodide will be well represented amongst the other toxins in there.
          Toxicology itself is undergoing some updates. For instance, we are only just beginning to understand teh exogenic/environmental influence on gene expression.
          We have no idea what "junk dna" wil be activated by these things. Such activations bring with them "sets" of traits that may have been de-activated back when we were were carbonaceous creatures - back when the air was different. THis would lead to a lot of still-births, or bad maladaptations. On the other hand, may re-adapt us to the air we are creating for ourselves. Iether way it is cataclysmic.
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        Nov 26 2012: I read that propeller aircraft flying through clouds have an effect similar to cloud seeding. Hmmm. Anyway, here are some purported "potential benefits" which could be useful:
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          Nov 26 2012: Hmmm Here we go.

          It's amazing what happens when there's 7 billion brains on a planet - there is almost always an answer being found - or under investigation:


          This fellow has been looking for the observable, confirmable extent of cloud seeding - and a whole lot more!

          Worth a look at... I kinda feel silly asking the question in the face of this!
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        Nov 26 2012: Wait. What? I thought this was an innocuous but interesting subject. Suddenly there is the spectre of world domination. Epithets like "conspiracy theorist" have already been tossed. Tin foil hats are now showing up and I suspect any day now Bush will be accused of causing hurricane Sandy as a way to disrupt the DNC. When in doubt cut it out! Cease all overt and covert weather modification and geomodification immediately. Appoint a Climate Czar with unchecked power to prosecute cloud seeders wherever they are found. Don't feel silly Mr. Smith, you have simply given another real concern to add to our bulging bag of worries. Thank you?
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          Nov 26 2012: The link is picturesque, I must admit, but it does seem to have gathered a lot of the pros and cons. I found a few other websites, but this one seems to have gathered up most of the more repuatble ones.

          The interesting thing, when one has a look at the official material, is that cloud seeding seems to be only around 10% successful.

          I don't think it's something to cause so much alarm. My topic was prompted by the practice of it over my head - dimming the mountain sunshine I so love - that coupled with the seeming lack of transparency prompted me to consult the good thinkers of TED.

          The true "tinfoil-hat-wearing-brigade" are blaming Obama - I must say, following this theme on the internet has turned up some very enetertaining material .. Monty python would approve.

          But, when one is considering the potential of weather alteration, it starts to hit the same jurisdictional issues as the internet.

          I think it warrants discussion. The bones of truth-not-told will agregate the flesh of imagination. So what is this particular beasty? A dragon of a wombat?
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        Nov 26 2012: I worked on several "Deep Black" projects during my servile and mediocre career as a design engineer. The secrecy was was always in the interest of national security. I don't see how secret experimentation on the dynamics of our planet's weather is in the national interest. As soon as Dec. 21 is over I am going to panic about this.
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          Nov 26 2012: I think transparency is key.
          The problem with secrecy is that we are not given the opportunity to ask critical questions.
          In a democracy, we have the chance to prevent antithetical interests from hijacking our community value. Whilever the issue is not under the scritny of our millions of brains, we are at the mercy of any interest that decides to take-up lodging in the vacuum.
          At the moment, it seems to be mostly aviation companies offering a service to agricultural and state bodies. It would seem natural for them to do so - certainly any business must look for avenues of income. However, I group this particular service with the practice of "sky writing" which, to me, was the gross vandalising of my sky for the benefit of strangers who asked no leave of those inflicted.

          Advantage begins at the very local field of perception - one can say " her'e's a service I can do and get paid. Fine. Then there's the company that says - "write my Toyota logo in the sky" - seems OK - people don't object so much to marketting in their other environments - so tacit approval is assumed. But I am not the only one who gets ticked-off by people meddling with my sky.

          The Dec 21 thing is terribly seductive. THe combined hysteria itself might precipitate problems. For myself, I've stopped listening .. I have my own pet theory - and it's way beyond anything we should worry about. Which leaves good-old hum-drum politics. The real issues never change, and we might be better served to keep concentrating on the fundamentals. As far as I'm concerned, the fundamental issue still remains with "how do we manage our tribal dynamics - is there truly a threat from other tribes?: if so, what is it and what can we do about it without resorting to obsolete prehistoric mathods.
          Having granted unlimited power to ourselves, I can't see cave-man techniques serving us.

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