Can Cloud Seeding Produce More Snow at a Ski Resort?

Information you need about: the weather.

"Yes," says Doug Laraby, planning director at Colorado's Winter Park Resort. "No way," says the Weather Underground's Tim Roche. Such has been the non-consensus for the past 50 years. Cloud seeding involves bombarding promising clouds with microscopic bits of silver iodide, which are similar to ice crystals, to draw out more precipitation. (Left alone, only 10 percent of a cloud's moisture actually falls to the ground as rain or snow.) It's always been castigated as phony science or, worse, manipulating nature. As part of their ambitious plan to control the weather during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese launched more than 1,000 silver iodide rockets to encourage rainfall before the opening ceremonies started. It worked, too—unless, as Roche suggests, it wasn't going to rain that day anyway. Laraby is a believer, citing reports that seasonal snowfalls for areas targeted by seeding increased by about 10 percent—evidence that convinced Winter Park to team up with several Colorado River–based water agencies to boost snowfall along its Continental Divide ski slopes, since more snow means more green lawns somewhere downstream.

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