Man vs Nature: Cloud seeding in Idaho

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SUN VALLEY, Id. ( KMVT / KSVT ) - Maybe you’ve heard about cloud seeding, where humans can actually make it rain or snow.

It might sound like something straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie, but Idaho Power has been operating a cloud seeding program since 2003.

The key to success… super cooled liquid water.

“So you’ll see ice across the windshield, you can see ice on the wings. That’s called super cooled liquid water and when we’re in the water that’s freezing on the airplane, that’s when we start seeding, that’s the right conditions to be in,” said Brooke Mueller, a captain for Weather Modification.

“There’s more abundance of super cooled liquid water, that’s water that’s below freezing but doesn’t freeze. It needs something that will teach it how to freeze. And so what we do is we go into that system and we try to make it a little more efficient. We try to coax a little more snowfall, mountain snowfall, out of the actual storm system. We use ground based generators and aircraft, so what this does is, they burn a solution or a flare that has silver iodide in it. And silver iodide acts as an ice nuclei or a particle that basically teaches that water droplet how to freeze and it starts the growth of a snowflake,” said Derek Blestrud, meteorologist for Idaho Power.

You might not like the whole idea of messing with Mother Nature and criticism of the cloud seeding does exist.

There’s the idea of taking precipitation from one cloud that could have potentially snowed down the road.

There’s also that idea of releasing chemicals into the sky. According to Idaho Power, those myths have been dispelled.

According to Idaho Power, the benefits outweigh the risks, especially when it comes to creating more hydro-electric power for its half a million customers.

“We’re looking at or we’re pursuing building our program, expanding the program. Over time, estimates are that we’d be able to provide electricity for close to 80,000 homes,” said Shaun Parkinson, Water Resources Leader for Idaho Power.

Idaho Power says cloud seeding actually stimulates clouds, so once they are seeded, they often release more precipitation down the road.

The company also says the amount of silver iodide released is so small, it is barely traceable.

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