Cloud seeding best implemented as long term enhancement to any water management: Neil Brackin
Bengaluru: For the third time since 2000, the Karnataka government has decided to attempt cloud seeding to spur rainfall as the state stares at the possibility of its fourth consecutive drought this year. Cloud seeding is a scientific intervention wherein aircraft are used to spray chemicals like silver iodide, potassium chloride and sodium chloride into the clouds to aid precipitation. Karnataka has awarded the Rs 30 crore project to Bengaluru-based Hoysala Projects Pvt Ltd, which has in turn partnered with US-based Weather Modification Inc (WMI), an atmospheric sciences company. Neil.S.Brackin, president of WMI, in an email interview said cloud seeding will reinforce the annual monsoon rainfall in Karnataka. Edited excerpts:
How successful would cloud seeding be in climates like India’s? How is success measured?
Cloud seeding has much success in tropical and semi-tropical regions such as India.
The programme in Karnataka has the advantage of an extensive state rain gauge network. Along with detailed weather radar data and modelling, we can accurately assess the amount of additional precipitation derived from cloud seeding..
Will introducing more chemicals into the environment increase toxicity?
No, the silver iodide (AgI) that is the active compound has been studied in multiple programmes for more than 30 years and has been proven to be environmentally friendly; it is used extensively in the United States and has endorsement of our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What technical expertise will you be providing to Karnataka other than the aircraft?
We are installing three Doppler Weather Radar systems. This helps in the study and validation of the programme as well as for directing aircraft, which makes the seeding operations much more efficient and effective. The installed weather radars will cut the cost of future programmes and allow the state to monitor very accurately the rainfall and other weather 365 days per year. These radars are equally dispersed for coverage of the entire state and allow for severe weather monitoring, advance notification and planning to benefit all the people of Karnataka.
Which are the other places in India you have conducted this exercise before? When?
Our most recent cloud seeding program was for the state of Maharashtra in 2015. We also were the operational partner for the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in 2014 and 2015 for their research on cloud seeding and aerosols in India.
How much does it cost to carry out such an exercise?
Cost is always relative when it comes to public service programmes such as this. In similar programs in the United States, third-party validation and studies of the program determined a cost-benefit of 25:1 for every dollar spent on cloud seeding.
It is a very cost-effective program for state governments such as Karnataka to support and implement it for the annual monsoon season. Having the permanent installation of weather radars that cover the full state will make this more affordable and contribute to this water management programme long term.
In states like Karnataka, where the rains have failed for decades, is cloud seeding the only option or are there other technical interventions available?
Cloud seeding is best implemented as a long-term enhancement to any water management program. It is certainly not the only component of an effective water management program; however the only proven method to increase access to atmospheric water is through effective targeted cloud seeding with high quality products. The only method of replenishing ground water is with precipitation. The only way to fill aquifers and rivers that support clean hydro-power production is with additional precipitation.