The Blanket Effect is intended for others to learn about weather modification and its related subjects in an easy to understand way. Started in 2005, this blog is a work in progress as the technology advances

February 20, 2007

One Man Speaks Out

(note: abridged version, for full text: PDF)


NOVEMBER 10, 2005

I am honored to appear before you today in regards to Senate Bill S.517, the Weather Modification Research and Technology Transfer Authorization Act of 2005.

My name is Dr. Joseph H. Golden, retired from NOAA on September 2, 2005 after 41.5 years of Federal service in NOAA, both in severe weather research and NWS operations.

I now work part-time as a Senior Research Scientist in the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder,CO.

My background in weather modification research relates to the fact that I was the last NOAA manager of the Atmospheric Modification Program (AMP) in NOAA Research, until its termination by the Congress in l995.

None of the NOAA AMP funds were used to conduct any operational cloud seeding, and I feel that, at this time, funding under S517 should also not be used for operational cloud seeding efforts.

In the limited time I speak before you today, I want to address two types of natural disasters, and the potential for planned weather modification to alleviate them: slow-onset disasters over many years, such as the continuing drought in the West, and the quick-onset disasters such as the record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season this year and the massive Oklahoma City tornado outbreak of May, l999.

Federal funding for weather modification research in the U.S. reached its pinnacle in the l970’s and early l980’s, and has steadily declined ever since.

During its heyday, weather modification research in the U.S. was at the cutting edge of worldwide efforts.

For example, NOAA conducted large-scale seeding experiments in South Florida (called FACE) and collaborated with the Navy and university scientists in Project STORMFURY, to weaken hurricanes.

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) also organized the National Hail Research Experiment, which attempted to test the validity of the Russian approach to artificially reduce hail by cloud seeding.

Finally, the Bureau of Reclamation carried out the High Plains experiment, to seed convective clouds for rainfall increases over the Central U.S.

While each of these programs, in my opinion, produced outstanding scientific results and new operational insights, they produced results that were inconclusive insofar as statistical evaluation is concerned.

The scientific foundation and underlying physics in purposeful weather modification, i.e., cloud seeding, is sound and well-established.

We now have both the science and the technology to launch a new research attack on some of these other vexing problems.

The need for a renewed national commitment and funding for weather modification research has become more urgent.

In recent years, we have seen severe drought in my home State of Colorado and the Pacific Northwest.

New research results show unmistakable impacts of air pollution in reducing seasonal precipitation over mountainous areas of the Western U.S. during the past several decades.

Pollution is systematically robbing the Western mountains of winter snowpack, and if the process continues, will lead to major losses of runoff water for hydroelectric power and agricultural crop productivity.

However, research in Israel has demonstrated that their long-term cloud seeding programs have offset similar pollution-induced rainfall losses in their country.

The new research has also developed new analysis techniques with NOAA satellite data to objectively identify and separate pollution episodes from affected neighboring clouds.

The pollution effects on natural precipitation in our country and elsewhere is certainly a critical research issue for this Bill.

Another issue needing more research attention is the question of extra-area effects: if we seed cloud systems in one area, and successfully produce increases of precipitation there, are we “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in downwind locations?

Results supported by AMP suggested the answer is no, and that there is either no effect downwind, or a slight increase in precipitation.

Even after the demise of the AMP Program in l995, operational weather modification programs have continued to expand and flourish in the U.S.

This is reflected in the annual reports of all such projects to NOAA, as required by law.

Most of these projects are supported by the States, utilities or the private-sector.

Most of these projects are supported by the States, utilities or the private-sector.

One of my private-sector colleagues recently noted his estimate of total annual expenditures in the U.S. of $25-30 million for weather modification operational projects.

There is now very little Federally-supporting research to aid these operational programs in evaluation, or improving their technological base.

We have some of the best cutting-edge science in NOAA research, NCAR and the universities that can help the private weather modification operators improve their evaluation of seeding effects, as well as improved targeting of seeding materials in suitable cloud systems.

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