Cloud seeding a costly waste

Roger Neshem, Berthold

My name is Roger E. Neshem. I have served on the Ward County Weather Modification Board since 2017. I farm with my wife, Jen, near Berthold along with running a seed business.

When I was appointed to the Board, I conducted research on weather modification on my own exploring all information available not just the talking points the Atmospheric Resource Board puts out in hopes of gaining support for its weather modification projects. My research has been independent and much greater than any other current board members who have all held positions on this board for over 20 years reciting the same exact talking points without any proof.

My extensive research going through hail loss rates, rainfall data and countless scientific papers, I have come to the conclusion we cannot prove we have reduced any hail in this county. The scientific community as a whole holds this same position. Ward County has had an average hail loss rate of 3.79% going back to 1916. That number fluctuates yearly but the long-term average is that, and interestingly enough, is the same as it was before we started conducting hail suppression.

Ward County is the longest continuous run hail suppression project in the world; however, our neighboring counties to the east and north have long term hail loss rates that are 10-28% less than us without ever conducting hail suppression.

McLean county to our south is about 14% higher than us but that is normal as the further south you go the greater the number of days you have chances of hail. Nowhere in any insurance data have I found a 43% reduction in hail claimed by the Smith 1987 study that is cited for the reason for this program! My family’s own farm has had extensive hail even though we are in the hail suppression project. There is no proof we would have had more hail without the program.

In 2004 the National Academy of Sciences conducted a study to understand weather modification and hail suppression. They reviewed every paper this state and county has used to support hail suppression and came to this conclusion. “There is no scientifically credible evidence hail can be suppressed.”

They also stated, “There is no convincing scientific evidence of the efficacy of intentional weather modification efforts, and there is even less evidence that weather modification efforts affect weather outside of the seeded regions. Questions about whether cloud seeding in one location can reduce precipitation in other areas can only be addressed thru carefully crafted hypothesis and experiments.”

The ARB has over $4.8 million at its disposal for research and grants per biennium yet the study they tout is still the 1987 Smith study as the basis for this program. Think of the millions they have spent over the last 35 years without results that could have been used elsewhere. The small agency has a salary and benefit budget over $1.1 million per biennium alone!

In my research I have found many papers citing hail suppression leading to decreased rainfall. Changnon et al. found that, “given reduction in hailfall a smaller reduction in rainfall might occur. If hailfall is decreased 60% rainfall can be reduced by 30%.” The 1987 Smith study on hail reduction even states that “early rainout” and “less intense rainfall” occurs with hail suppression. Given Changnon’s findings a 43% reduction in hail would mean around a 21.5% reduction in rainfall. Model simulations by (Reisin et al, 1996, 2000) suggest that the time of seeding is a crucial parameter. Seeding too early or too late can lead to REDUCED RAINFALL amounts. Hail Suppression makes up the majority of weather modification here in Ward County which then leads to the question of how does our rainfall averages look?

Using average rainfall totals for the cloud seeding months of June-August NWS averages show Berthold and Minot to average .75-1.05” less of precipitation than the Ross, ND station 50-75 miles to our west. This leads me to believe that the extensive hail suppression program in place has led to “early rainout” so often that instead of averaging more precipitation as expected given our eastern location we average 10-14% less rain! Given the fact we are naturally water deficient in the summer months for our crops we cannot continue this madness without knowing what is going on with this program and its effects on our long-term precipitation and hail rates. A rain of only .5″ can be the make or break point for many farms. Are we losing .75-1″ of rain per year because of hail suppression? The question must be asked and the fact the program has seeded every cloud or attempts to that can storm our data set is worthless for showing efficacy of the program since there is no experimental control. The lowest rainfall rates sit on the eastern end of the weather modification project and we need to know why! Continuing the program will not give us any answers.

I encourage all to watch the last Ward County Weather Modification meeting to see how board members respond to questions and input. Keep in mind this board administers the program and is the conduit between the public and the program. The link is: https://youtu.be/–GoImHfcDdI

At one time there were 37 counties conducting weather modification in ND. No county has ever stopped hail suppression in this state only to start up again. NONE. Northwest Kansas at one time had a 14-county hail suppression program that has been discontinued due to concerns it hurt rainfall, expense and lack of results. If the hail suppression program accomplished what proponents claimed everyone would be conducting it. There are 3007 counties in the USA. Only 5 of them conduct hail suppression. Ask yourself who are the extremist in this debate? The people asking for accountability of this program or those seeking to infringe on everyone’s property rights by taxing us to manipulate the weather without knowing and fully understanding the consequences?

Since 2006 Ward County has spent over $3 million on weather modification, when including state money that number is over $4.2 million. We have been funding this program for over 40 years and the total numbers are much higher and we have absolutely nothing to show for it except higher taxes and lower rainfall rates. I urge you to seek sanity and tell your county commissioners the time has come to end funding for weather modification in Ward County.


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