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Cloud seeding decisions explained

Henry L Bodmer, Kenmare

Keli Anderson’s claim in the May 23, 2020, edition of the Minot Daily News concerning the “secrecy around who decides when and where cloud seeding flights take place” is false and misleading. The statement that “flying only when there is a severe forecast with clouds likely to bring hail” violates a basic principal of hail suppression that best results are obtained when the thunder cloud is seeded in the early stages of development.

Most cloud seeding is conducted to suppress hail in building thunder clouds. Under certain conditions there are clouds present with no conductive activity to turn the clouds into thunderstorms. Those clouds can be seeded to derive more moisture than the cloud would normally give, thus the term “rain enhancement.”

The decision when to launch aircraft on a cloud seeding mission is done on the recommendation of the meteorologist on duty at the Stanley radar site. A weather briefing is conducted each morning with the meteorologists at the state Atmospheric Resource Board, the personnel from the Stanley Radar site, and the pilots scattered around the Northwest cloud seeding district. If conditions warrant, aircraft are launched, sometimes starting out just as a reconnaissance and sometimes as full-fledged hail suppression flights.

Since moisture conditions vary throughout the project area, each county can request a halt to “rain enhancement” seeding in their county. In order for the State Atmospheric Resource Board to track the counties that want a halt in “rain enhancement” seeding, each county selects a County Commissioner and County Weather Modification Authority member to contact. During last year’s project, Commissioner Shelly Weppler was the Commission contact and I was the Authority contact.

Certain weather conditions require all cloud seeding to cease. For example, if the National Weather Service issues a flash flood warning or a tornado is sighted, seeding must stop immediately. The State’s cloud seeding project is conducted on scientific principals and on operational guidelines to ensure that no unintended consequences stem from the cloud seeding. The North Dakota cloud seeding project is widely known throughout the atmospheric research community as a model of a well-regulated project.

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