Cloud Seeding in Australia
We have all probably been aware of cloud seeding which for too long in Australia has been ignored by the climate bureaucracies, probably to the significant detriment of our water resource management. The technology has just burst on to the news in early 2004 with the announcement of a project by Snowy Hydro Ltd of a six year experiment to increase snow pack over a limited area of mountain catchments. This required an Act of the NSW Parliament to cut through the multiplicity of silly unscientific Green impediments to the sensible application of beneficial modern science and technology. NSW National Parks spokespeople and Green politicians have come out in opposition claiming that it will not work and that wilderness and wildlife could be harmed. This 2002 map of rainfall increases in Tasmania for the years of cloud seeding experiments is from I.L Searle's 2002 report available on the Snowy Hydro link below.
Cloud seeding started in Australia after WWII in NSW and experiments ran
intermittently in several state with the most recent cases I am aware
of being in WA in the early 80's and northern NSW in 1994/5. Unfortunately
the chances of the technology being sensibly applied have been marred by
arguments and turf wars between bureaucracies (CSIRO, BoM and SMHA,
plus no doubt other State and Federal Departments and Quangos) and also
disagreements over the results. At the present time we have several
obvious problems that will work against Australia getting the best
value possible from a modern application of this science and technology.
The sole operational application in Australia has been in the routine operations of Hydro Tasmania and the facts of their success have been effectively censored from mainstream publicity by the prevailing green / media coalition. It is astonishing that cloud seeding has been absent to such a degree from Australian scientific thinking for over a decade. The rise of Green naysayers and hand-wringers in politics and Governments will mitigate against a sensible application of cloud seeding.
The predominance for over a decade, of Greenhouse dogmas in Australian scientific establishments and the distortions to scientific research and policy brought about by billions of dollars of taxpayers money being poured down that gurgler will be an impediment to any rational appraisal of cloud seeding.
A significant problem for any cloud seeding operation is the assessment of results because rainfall statistics are so notoriously erratic and the recording network so sparse compared to the small areas seeded. Also, rain may not fall exactly where it is required which is a problem early in an experiment before techniques can be calibrated. Finally, if the naysayers can not object on some statistical grounds they just say, "..well it would have been wetter anyway...". In the face of these problems I would think Australia has the best chance to see if cloud seeding will assist in our obvious water resources problems if a Federal Department with a positive "..let's see if we can make it work.." attitude acts as a central source of information, resources, project specifications and promotes data collection to a common standard. Probaly an over-idealistic hope.
There was a cloud seeding experiment in the northern WA wheatbelt 1980-82 and an experiment on the Darling Scarp near Perth pre 1970, both of which were judged to be not successful. I am trying to access the reports. Ryan and Sadler (see link below) say of the Northern wheatbelt trials that "It was concluded that in the northern wheatbelt region of Western Australia is probably suitable for a cloud seeding operation. However, the duration required for a cloud seeding experiment made the area unsuitable." Work that one out.My impressions are that for cloud seeding to work in Australia,
In the case of any application to the Perth and Western Australia water
supply problem we first have to get the issue discussed and on the political
radar because at the recent Water Forums and Symposium in Perth there is
not a mention I can find that cloud seeding even exists in human experience.
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If you type cloud seeding in google.com.au many refernces come up including some Commonwealth Government sites with interesting reports by MP John Forrest.
Follow link on right to "Snowfall Augmentation by Cloud Seeding", many
pdf reports to read note Searle 2002.
Ryan and Sadler overview of cloud seeding in Australia http://www.dar.csiro.au/publications/cloud.htm
CSIRO media man Paul Holper's summary of cloud seeding.