Is cloud seeding a potential solution to Colorado’s drought?

If you don’t like Colorado’s weather, wait 5 minutes. Or shoot seeds into the clouds

Michael Booth The Colorado Sun
Snow drifts from the sky as Boreas Mountain basks in sunlight Nov. 10, near Breckenridge. The region’s cloud seeding programs target clouds passing through high elevation counties, such as Summit County, to provide more snow.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

They say that everyone complains and yet no one ever does anything about the weather. 

But Colorado is actually trying very, very hard to do something, possibly a quite large something: Expanding decades of cloud seeding to an eighth campaign to combat the 22-year drought by wringing more snow from every storm tantalizing the biggest river basins. 

The next time promising snow clouds gather over the St. Vrain basin west of Longmont, newly placed silver iodide guns will shoot the chemical high into the gloomy skies in the hope of coaxing an extra 10% to 15% of snowpack from the atmosphere. 

The new St. Vrain Creek effort joins existing blasts of silver iodide targeting heavy snow clouds for decades above the upper Colorado River, the North Platte, the Gunnison, and Grand Mesa. Another study is underway to see if cloud seeding could boost flows in the Yampa and White River basins in northwestern Colorado.

The high-tech rain dances are paid for by an intriguing combination of thirsty customers. State governments want to boost water resources and tourism. Ski areas seek the deepest possible powder. And downhill states like Arizona and California pay up as they choke on new federal restrictions on Colorado River water use, with climate change quickly altering reality for 40 million snowpack-dependent Westerners. 


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