Cloud seeding efforts in Utah will increase to bring more snow
Sep 28, 2023, 6:40 PM | Updated: Sep 29, 2023, 5:40 am
It seems kind of backward that fire could help produce snow, but every time Garrett Cammans walks into one of the small trailers his company builds, he is still amazed by what the technology inside can do.
“Results in Utah are all pretty consistent,” he said. “Almost all of our programs consistently see a 3%-10% increase in water content or snowpack at the end of the season in areas that were seeded.”
Cammans is talking about cloud seeding, which Utah has been doing for decades.
“Yes, this does work,” he said with a laugh. “We have been running evaluations for over 60 years.”
Cammans is the president of North American Weather Consultants based in Sandy.
The trailer he was showing can be set up in remote areas and operated remotely.
The idea is that when a storm rolls in during the winter months, the seeding solution inside the trailer is atomized in a burn chamber.
That’s where the flames can be seen above the trailer.
That solution is then sent up to clouds, which makes the cloud release more of its moisture in the form of snow.
It was one of the highlights during Utah’s first cloud seeding symposium held at Snowbird Resort on Thursday.
About 20 of those mobile cloud seeding stations were operating in Utah last year.
This coming winter, the state is expanding the program to run about 120 of them, along with the 170 other types of cloud seeding machines that were operating last year.
In 2023, the Utah Legislature allocated $12 million in one-time funding and provided an annual budget of $5 million to expand the state’s cloud seeding program.
“We recognize that we have to do everything we can to try and enhance the watershed and this is one of those tools that we have available to us that does make a difference,” said Joel Ferry, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
One question many people always have about cloud seeding, is does it take away potential water from other areas?
For example, as Utah continues to cloud seed, does it mean Colorado gets less snow?
“You mean robbing Peter to pay Paul? That is a common question we get,” said Dr. Sarah Tessendorf, who is with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Our best estimates right now are the amount from cloud seeding that are being pulled out from the total amount in that atmosphere is very small and so it is a pretty negligible effect downstream.”
Dr. Tessendorf admits more research is necessary as more cloud seeding machines pop up in western states looking to combat drought conditions.
“As we become more aware of the drought and the changing climate that we are going to be dealing with, and more aware of the need to preserve and conserve our water resources, there is definitely a lot more interest in cloud seeding,” said Cammans. “The problem is cloud seeding can’t fix the drought. We are also going to have to change behavior and we are going to have to conserve and make other changes if we going to continue to live in areas that are affected by long-term droughts.”