What is the purpose of Idaho Power’s cloud seeding program?
Idaho Power’s cloud seeding program increases snow accumulation and provides increased generation at the company’s hydroelectric facilities. It also benefits skiers, snowmobilers, agriculture, fish and other wildlife habitat, aquifer recharge and water quality.
In what areas does Idaho Power currently conduct cloud seeding?
The original program was established to increase snow accumulation in the south and middle forks of the Payette River watershed. In 2008, Idaho Power expanded its cloud seeding efforts by enhancing an existing program operated by a coalition of counties and other stakeholders in the upper Snake River system above Milner Dam.
For the 2015–2016 winter season, the Central Mountains project (includes Payette, Boise, and Wood Basins) includes 28 remote-controlled, ground-based generators and two airplanes contracted for operations. The program in the Upper Snake River Basin includes 25 remote-controlled, ground-based generators operated by Idaho Power and 25 manual, ground-based generators operated by the coalition and one airplane contracted for operations. Idaho Power provides meteorological data and weather forecasting to guide the coalition’s operations.
How long has Idaho Power been involved in cloud seeding?
The company has continuously operated a cloud seeding program since 2003.
How long has cloud seeding been used?
The principle of cloud seeding was discovered in 1946 by American chemist and meteorologist Vincent Schaefer. The use of silver iodide to enhance the formation of ice crystals in clouds was discovered only a few days later by noted atmospheric scientist Dr. Bernard Vonnegut.
The technology has been used since the late 1940s to enhance precipitation and also to dissipate fog and reduce the size of hailstones.
How prevalent is cloud seeding?
The latest data from the World Meteorological Organization, compiled in 2000, listed 74 projects ongoing in 23 countries worldwide. In 2001 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) documented 66 projects conducted in the western U.S.
A wide range of entities sponsor cloud seeding programs in the U.S. They include municipal, county and state governments; irrigation, water resource and water conservation districts; airports; ski resorts; and private industry. (source: North American Weather Modification Council)
Active programs exist in several states, including Idaho, North Dakota, California, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas and Nevada.
Is cloud seeding effective?
Analyses conducted by Idaho Power since 2003 indicate the annual snowpack in the Payette River Basin increased between 5 and 15 percent (depending on the year, with an average increase of about 14 percent). Idaho Power estimates cloud seeding in the Payette provides nearly 300,000 additional acre-feet of water for the Hells Canyon Complex and the Upper Snake provides approximately 283,000 acre-feet each year for all of hydro projects downstream of Milner. That additional water can generate approximately 193,000 megawatt-hours, or enough to power roughly more than 15,000 homes.
Studies conducted by the Desert Research Institute from 2003 to 2005 support the effectiveness of Idaho Power’s program.
How does cloud seeding work?
Idaho Power seeds clouds by introducing additional ice nuclei (silver iodide) into winter storms. The additional ice nuclei increase precipitation from passing winter storm systems. If a storm has water vapor and appropriate temperatures, the conditions are optimal for cloud seeding to increase precipitation.
Idaho Power uses two methods to seed clouds: 1) ground generators at high elevations, or 2) airplanes that release special flares into storm clouds. Either method successfully releases silver iodide into passing storms. Minute water particles within the clouds freeze on contact with the silver iodide particles and eventually grow and fall to the ground as snow.
Is it cloud seeding safe?
Silver iodide has been used as a seeding agent in numerous western states for decades without any known harmful effects. Silver iodide is insoluble in water which is a characteristic that keeps it from having harmful effects.
Doesn’t cloud seeding in one area decrease precipitation in other areas?
Research indicates that there is no evidence that cloud seeding in one location causes a reduction in precipitation in neighboring areas. During a storm a relatively small portion of the airborne water vapor falls to the ground as precipitation. Cloud seeding increases that amount slightly, leaving most of the water vapor still present in the storm system. The additional precipitation that does fall is not lost from the water cycle.
Typically, a well-run cloud seeding program would affect less than 1 percent of the water vapor in the atmosphere.
Is there any environmental oversight?
Idaho Power works closely with federal, state and local authorities to ensure our cloud seeding operations comply with all relevant environmental and land-use guidelines.
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