State preps for cloud seeding incoming winter storm

Dec 7, 2023, 5:40 PM | Updated: 6:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — With winter weather expected Friday morning, Utah is preparing to maximize the water it can pull from the clouds.

Cloud seeding is a technique the state uses to release natural chemicals into the clouds to pull more moisture out of them.

Utah has an extensive network of cloud seeding stations and access to two planes that help pull the extra moisture during winter storms. The state contracts with a company that operates them, who is prepping for the incoming weather.

“There’s going to be some periods over the next three days that are seeding worthy. There’s also going to be periods where there’s not enough active moisture in the cloud to really merit seeding,” Garrett Cammans, president of North American Weather Consultants, said.

The goal is to add to Utah’s water supply and help in the long-term mitigation of the drought.

Cloud Seeding (Utah Department of Natural Resources
Division of Water Resources) Cloud Seeding (Utah Department of Natural Resources
Division of Water Resources) Cloud Seeding (Utah Department of Natural Resources
Division of Water Resources) Aerial Cloud Seeding (Department of Natural Resources)

Utah has invested in the network of 170 ground stations around the state, with the hopes of adding 100 more in the next year. The company also owns two planes – which are set to fly during the weekend’s expected winter weather.

“The pilots are on standby,” Cammans said.

They are trained to fly sometimes in dangerous conditions, relying on instruments to guide them.

“They’re storm chasers. So they’re going into the conditions that every pilot is trained to avoid. They’re looking for the pockets of the most available liquid water inside of the cloud deck,” Cammans said.

The planes release the same seeding agent that the ground stations do, using heat to disperse it effectively, only the planes do it – literally — while in the clouds.

“They’re flares that are on the wing of the aircraft and they light kind of like a road flare that a police officer might wave to direct traffic,” Cammans said.

Tomorrow’s storm is just one of many but over the course of the season, Cammans said we could get an extra 3% yield in our water.

“Three percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but that equates to billions of gallons of additional runoff,” he said.

While the rest of Utah is dreading the winter special for tomorrow’s commute, and the shoveling, Cammans welcomes it.

“Yeah, we get really excited or really exhausted, depending on the season.”

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State preps for cloud seeding incoming winter storm