Weather and Technology: Friends and Foes

Time: 4 minutes

Weather modification, alternatively known as cloud seeding, is the application of scientific technology that enhances a cloud’s ability to produce precipitation. Bangalore-based Farheen examines how technology can help and harm us, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

The emergence of new, and technologically advanced forecast systems and communication networks provide a host of exciting possibilities to improve public weather services and effectively integrate dissemination and service delivery.

Weather modification, alternatively known as cloud seeding, is the application of scientific technology that enhances a cloud’s ability to produce precipitation. Weather Modification Inc., is the forerunner of scientific technology to ensure water availability throughout the world. Most of the decision makers have this opinion – when the scientific concepts and extensive scientific experimentation have proved that cloud seeding increases the amount of precipitation, then why should this technology shouldn’t be used.

There are three cloud seeding methods: static, dynamic and hygroscopic.

  • Static cloud seeding involves spreading a , such as silver iodide into clouds. The silver iodide provides a crystal around which moisture can condense. The moisture is already present in the clouds, but silver iodide essentially makes rain clouds more effective at dispensing their water.
  • Dynamic cloud seeding involves vertical air currents, which encourages more water to pass through the clouds, translating into more rain [source: Cotton]. The ice crystals used in dynamic cloud seeding is quite huge than in the static method. The process is considered more complex than static clouding seeding because it depends on a sequence of events working properly.
  • Hygroscopic cloud seeding involves dispersing salts through flares or explosives in the lower portions of clouds. The salts grow as water unite with them.

The best and recent example of cloud seeding is when the Beijing Weather Modification Office researched how to prevent rain in Beijing during the August 8th opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

To understand more about cloud seeding technology, watch this video:

Some of the disadvantages of cloud seeding technology are that the chemicals used in cloud seeding can potentially damage the . It is very expensive to produce artificial rain. The chemicals have to be delivered to the air using aircrafts, which are difficult to gain access to in places that cannot afford such an expensive technology.

Radar technology, such as weather radar, also called weather surveillance radar (WSR) and Doppler weather radar, is a type of radar that can indicate the wind direction, wind speed and boundaries between warm fronts and cold fronts. Therefore, Doppler radar has become such an indispensable tool for weather forecasters.

Modern weather radars are mostly pulse-Doppler radars, capable of detecting the motion of rain droplets in addition to the intensity of the precipitation. Both types of data can be analyzed to determine the structure of storms and their potential to cause severe weather.

For more understanding on Doppler radar, watch this video:

The partnership of new technologies and traditional methods have already helped the forecasters to develop better and more complete forecasts.

WeatherPredict Inc. is an exclusive commercial provider of weather forecasts derived from the patented Superensemble™ (SE) process. SE technology was originally developed at Florida State University, and it serves as the backbone of WPC’s operational forecasting system.

The SE technique is used to collect worthful predictive information from weather model forecasts for combining that information to generate a forecast that has the precision. SE forecasting is a computational, statistical process that surpasses the individual dynamical models and simple ensemble averaging . As a matter of fact, SE weather forecasts have been successful and beneficial.

One of the most exciting and innovative future technology enhancements for public weather services (PWS) is in the radar remote-sensing arena. Next- radar systems (dual-polarissation radar, phased-array radar) that will help in improving severe weather detection, rainfall estimates and winter weather warning in addition to increasing the lead time for severe weather hazards, including tornadoes and heavy rain and flash flood incidents.

Dual-polarisation radars transmit radio-wave pulses that have both horizontal and vertical orientations. The additional information from vertical pulses will greatly improve forecasts and warnings for a variety of hazardous weather, including severe weather, heavy rainfall and winter weather events.

With technology in place and methods that can help the metrological departments to forecast any weather will help others to be prepared for any upcoming catastrophic weather events.

©Farheen Viquas

Photos by the author from the Internet

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Farheen Viquas

Farheen Viquas

Farheen Viquas is a Senior Technical Editor/Writer working in Bangalore, India. She has worked as a Technical Writer/Editor, Mentor/Coach, Language Consultant, Information Tester, English Trainer, and Transcriber. When not at work, she loves to cook, read, write poetry and prose, listen to music, bake cakes, fish keeping, and embroider. She is also a stained-glass enthusiast.
Farheen Viquas

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