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Do what is best for the county

John Pietsch, Rural Minot

As a member of the Ward County Water Board I attended a seminar sponsored by the North Dakota State Water Commission in 2004. The speakers came from the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society, a program started in 1996 to reduce hail damage in to a large area of Alberta including the cities of Calgary and Deer lodge Alberta. Ward County along with five other counties in western North Dakota also has a hail suppression and rain enhancement funded cooperatively by the county and state.

My interest in weather has led me to read all the information I can find regarding cloud seeding. I have worked very hard to form my opinions with an open mind, with research and respectfully listening to people with thoughts on the issue.

In conversations with people I have asked why they would like to end Ward County’s participation in the hail suppression and rain enhancement program. Following is a summary of common comments, coupled with my responses based on my research.

Concern: The program reduces rain by chasing clouds away, or vaporizes the moisture in the clouds or cloud seeding changes natural weather patterns.

Response: It is an understandable question for people who rely on moisture for survival. The planes deliver a seeding agent to form more rain producing nuclei in the targeted cloud. The miniscule amount used simply lacks the ability to change the natural weather pattern or chase clouds away. The particles help the clouds produce rain sooner and last longer, there is no practical physical means to vaporize a cloud.

Concern: Rain clouds seem to disappear from radar when planes are aloft?

Response: A concerned farmer shared a video clip of radar of a thunderstorm that looked like it broke up before it reached his fields and he attributed the storm response to cloud seeding. This was during an extremely dry period and his concern is understandable. The truth is with or without seeding planes flying, storm clouds naturally build in intensity and similarly degenerate in cycles as they move across the landscape.

Comment: Hail is more profitable than harvesting my crop.

Response: I have farmed for forty two years and hail was always my enemy, something I feared and never something I wished for as a financial tool. Most farmers I know prefer to harvest a crop rather than collect crop insurance.

Comment: The County could use the money in other areas, like roads. The county’s contribution to this program last year was only $126,000 for the whole county. This is equivalent to the loss of 510 acres of wheat at 5.50 at a yield of 45 bushels or 7.25 homes siding and windows from hail damage. In comparison Hail Suppression for an entire County is a real bargain.

Comment: By reducing hail with this program it takes business away from roofing, siding, and window contractors or auto body shops.

Response: This suggests that natural disasters like our area experienced in 2011 are good for an economy. This hardship of property loss is wrong to be wished on anyone. Comment: Just leave Mother Nature alone.

Response: All through history society has faced difficult challenges. We were given a brain to resolve these challenges and make life better. What if scientific and technological research was or had been terminated for vaccines, live saving heath care, weed and pest control and modern conveniences, society would not have advanced. How fortunate we are to have tools to reduce harm.

Comment: Some studies show cloud seeding doesn’t work.

Response: Do not allow supporters or proponents of any issue to summarize a multi-page professional report or peer-reviewed academic article in one sentence. For example, the National Research Council Study of 2003 is quoted “there is still no scientific proof of efficacy of intentional weather modification efforts.” However, NRC also acknowledged that major technological advances in observational capacity, data collection, cloud modeling will improve research of weather modification. The NRC committee was not making judgments about ongoing operating programs and it supports field experiments in cooperation with operational (cloud seeding) programs.

Comment: Weather Modification is a secret program run by the government that answers to no one.

Response: Each participating county has a Weather Modification Authority comprised of five county commission appointed members, responsible for local funding and program operations. The state of North Dakota cost shares one-third of project costs, with funds approved by the legislature in each budget cycle through the Atmospheric Research Board. The ARB consists of seven members appointed by the Governor. Annually county authorities along with ARB meet publicly to discuss operations for the upcoming year. Each week during summer cloud seeding operations, the county authority, commission and representatives of ARB work in close coordination discussing county’s need of program. The ARB and the State Water Commission under which the ARB operates, have thorough and educational websites which share operational and budget information about weather Modification. Every question about the state weather modification project can be answered on its site or a response phone call to the ARB office in Bismarck.

Comment: Other counties have lower hail insurance rates.

Response: I cannot dispute or validate hail insurance cover premiums because insurance companies do not publish their private rates. What we do know is that NDSU from 2008 to 2017 did an economic study in which a hail rating was placed on all counties in North Dakota. Ward County’s hail rating was 2.7 which tried Ward County for the fourth lowest in North Dakota.

In closing this issue shouldn’t be about winning but what is best for Ward County and that is to support a program that suppresses hail and increases rainfall.

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