By Callie Metler-Smith
The Rolling Plains Weather Modification Program submitted their final report last month as a summary to the Cloud Seeding Program that was set up last year to help increase rainfall to the area. The report was prepared by Gary L. Walker who serves as the project manager at Seeding Operations and Atmospheric Research (SOAR). In the executive summary of the report Walker states that the Rolling Plains region (specifically Knox, Haskell, Stonewall, Jones, Fisher, Scurry, Nolan, and Mitchell counties) is under exceptional drought conditions. These conditions prompted city and county officials to participate in the Rolling Plains Weather Modification Program to execute an operational cloud seeding program.
SOAR was contracted to provide the service and they used glaciogenic and hydroscopic seeding. Glaciogenic cloud seeding happens when an aircraft releases Silver Iodide flared, and super cooled liquid water is converted into ice particles. In favorable conditions, the clouds will grow larger, process more water vapor, and yield more precipitation. In hydroscopic, also referred to as warm cloud seeding, the objective is to enhance rainfall by releasing a highly concentrated salt solution. This helps beneficially effect precipitation by introducing embroyos on which raindrops can form and broadening the initial droplet size distribution to accelerate the stages of the merging process. During the 2014 70 Glaciogenic and 132 Hydroscopic seeding flares were used.
SOAR uses a software called TITAN (Thunderstorm, Identification, Tracking, Analysis, and Nowcasting) to qualify if a cloud is seedable. Then the meteorologist undergoes a series of decisions that are Nowcasting, decision time, qualification, treatment, maintenance, and termination.
Since about 79% of the rainfall annually happens between March and October the cloud seeding program ran last year from June 21st to September 24th. In that amount of time, 28 missions and 46.8 total flight hours were pefformed for the Rolling Plains Weather Modification Program. A total of 57,500 acre-feet of water increase was estimated to have accrued due to the program.
According to the program manager’s calculations this benefited the counties that participated in a $3.89 return on every $1 spent, a total of $147,801 which was dispersed between the participating counties.