Have you ever prayed for rain so that you could just go and make yourself wet? If you don’t like praying, don’t bother but farmers do and even perform rainmaking practices. Rainmaking is just efforts to make rain.

Since the yearly harvest depends upon rain, it has a crucial importance for farmers. Rain and other precipitation are a part of water cycle, which helps life to sustain in our planet.

But, what if you could make it rain artificially? The farmers won’t need to perform rain dance or sacrifices for their gods or marriage ceremony of frogs to appease the rain god. This could solve the problem of drought as well as untimely rain and aid the productivity of crops.

Rainmaking Cloud Seeding
Image: pixabay.com

Modern technology has allowed us to enhance rain by the use of different particles which can increase the precipitation not actually make rain. Though it is called rainmaking, it is actually enhancing rain.

The history dates back long ago to 1946, when Vincent J. Schaefer experimented cloud seeding first at Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts using dry ice as cloud seeds (solid carbon dioxide). After that there has been many practices of rain making.

What are cloud seeds?

Cloud seeds are the particles which act as a scaffold for growing the droplets of water, the water molecules can align themselves around these particles and form a bulk. In this way they can help the formation of clouds by gathering the water vapor. The particles such as dry ice, silver iodide, liquid propane, salt powder, etc. can act as the cloud seeding agent since they provide scaffold for the growth of crystals of ice.

Rainmaking – How does rainfall occur artificially?

Rainmaking is artificial attempt to make rain. This encompasses all the efforts by humans to make rain, including both scientific methods of sowing cloud seeds as well as the unscientific rain rituals that is done across the globe.

Scientifically, rainmaking refers to the sowing cloud seeds in order to increase the precipitation. Since cloud seeds only helps the water molecules to gather, it is actually modifying rather than creating the weather condition of rain. When the seeds are sowed from airplanes or balloons or rockets, the enhanced cloud formation takes place and precipitation occurs.

The rainmaking process can increase the clouds so that it would rain, also the reverse process is in practice. This process is used to disperse the clouds to stop rain or hail or any type of such precipitation. In this process, chemicals are sprayed in the heavy clouds so that the droplets of water can shrink and won’t be able to fall. This will slow down the process of raining.

Practices of rainmaking and further

The cloud seeding has been practiced in many countries since  1940s. China attempted cloud seeding so that the clouds could precipitate before reaching the stadiums during 2008 Beijing Olympics. Also, the heavy clouds were dealt with by shrinking the water droplets using different chemicals so that the rain could be delayed. Hail, fog and thunderstorm suppressors are usually used in airports in extreme weather conditions.

Cloud seeding is often used in enhancing snowfall called snowmaking. The ski resorts also perform cloud seeding on the super cooled clouds using silver iodide in order to make snowfall.

Regarding the environmental impacts of using those chemicals, the excess use of such chemicals should be avoided. The excess use can only have an impact on our health and its okay otherwise. So, the limitations should be kept.

Though cloud seeding has been popular and rainmaking is practiced in many places, it has been matter of debate in the scientific community. The statistical anomaly in the precipitation and the effectiveness of the cloud seeding has still remained problem. The surrounding has a lot of parameters that could influence the precipitation and the exact degree of effectiveness of cloud seeding depending on the parameters remains a matter of debate.

Ashwin Khadka is a PhD Scholar in Nano Energy and Thermofluid Lab in Korea University, Republic of Korea under Korean Government Scholarship Program. He has a Masters Degree in Physics from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer.