(note: One person can spread technical know-how to many, though there are no atmospheric scientific credentials that we could find for "Dr." Woodley. He is in the center of the photograph at left, taken for the U.S. based SPECTRA project)
(material below excerpted from IOL April 16, 2005)
Asian scientists try to force rain from above"
US-based cloud seeding specialist William Woodley, who worked with Thai scientists on rainmaking projects in the 1990s, says that "carefully crafted cloud seeding has been shown to enhance rainfall in Thailand".
But he warns that no cloud seeding methods can succeed without suitable clouds.
"In periods of extreme drought, there is not much that can be done for rainfall enhancement. The key is to employ cloud seeding when suitable clouds are present such that the enhanced rainfall is available in reservoirs during periods of drought."
Encouraged by Thailand's experience, Cambodia has asked Bangkok for cloud seeding help, with 14 of its 24 provinces hit by the drought and up to 700 000 people suffering from food shortages due to poor rice crops.
Thailand's government is considering how best to respond to the request, but has been asked by countries from around the region for technical assistance and demonstrations of the Thai technique.
Thailand and Cambodia are among the hardest-hit of seven countries baking in the drought, but Vietnam and parts of southern China, Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia and are also suffering.
Malaysia holds annual cloud seeding operations between April and May, but this year began in March to boost water supplies in the northern states of Perlis and Kedah, the country's "rice bowl".
The Philippines began cloud seeding in 1997 in the Visayas, and today uses the technique in major farming areas such as northern Luzon and the southern island of Mindanao.
The department of agriculture in Manila said operations have in some areas cushioned the impact of long dry spells, especially in Mindanao.
In China, meteorologists combat increasing water shortages, particularly in Beijing, by pouring rainmaking chemicals from aircraft, or shooting them into the sky using rocket shells and anti-aircraft guns.
Between 1995 and 2003, China spent $266-million on rainmaking efforts in 23 provinces and regions, state press reports said.
Australia, the world's driest continent, began cloud seeding experiments in the late 1940s. Because of varying results, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia's top science body, stopped tests in the 1980s, having concluded the technique was ineffective at breaking droughts.
Two areas in Australia still use it - the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales state for snow, and the southernmost state of Tasmania for water.
During its first season last winter, snow in the Snowy Mountains project increased by 25 percent, officials said. - Sapa-AFP