Update On A Long-term Winter Operational Cloud Seeding Program In Central/Southern Utah
Keywords:cloud seeding, weather modification, winter cloud seeding, precipitation enhancement, Utah cloud seeding
North American Weather Consultants, Inc. (NAWC) has conducted operational winter cloud seeding programs in the mountainous areas of Central and Southern Utah since 1974. Beginning in 1988, seeding has also been conducted in three additional mountainous target areas within the State. The goal of these programs has been to enhance winter snowpack accumulation in the target areas, which now include most of the mountainous areas of the State. Studies have demonstrated that a large majority of the annual runoff in Utah streams and rivers is derived from melting snowpack, which explains the focus on wintertime seeding (within the November – April period). Augmented water supplies are typically used for irrigated agriculture or municipal water supplies. Programs are typically funded at the county level with cost sharing grants from the Utah Division of Water Resources (UDWR) and the three Lower Colorado River Basin States of Arizona, California, and Nevada, since 2007. An earlier WMA paper (Griffith et al. 2009) provided a summary of seeding operations for the water years of 1974 through 2007 for the four target areas. This paper is focused on the Central and Southern Utah program which is both the largest target area and the longest running program in the state. It covers all but three water years from 1974 through 2021 and is one of the three or four longest operational winter cloud seeding programs that have been conducted in the United States.
The target area encompasses several mountain ranges in Central and Southern Utah. NAWC has defined the target area boundaries as those locations that are above 7,000 feet MSL. This is a large area of approximately10,000 square miles.
Cloud seeding is accomplished using networks of ground-based, manually operated silver iodide nuclei generators located in valley or foothill locations upwind of the intended target mountain barriers. As such, these programs are classified as orographic winter cloud seeding programs. Orographic winter cloud seeding programs are typically categorized as those with the highest level of scientific support based upon capability statements of such organizations as the American Meteorological Society and the Weather Modification Association.
NAWC historical target/control evaluations of this program indicate an average increase in December-March target area precipitation of 12% or an average increase in precipitation of 1.3”. These results were significant at the 0.06 level from a one-tailed Student’s t-test. The UDWR has conducted periodic studies to estimate the increases in annual streamflow resulting from the estimated increases in April 1st snow water content produced by this seeding program. The most recent study (UDWR 2018) indicated an estimated average annual streamflow increase of about 84,000 acre-feet for the Central and Southern Utah target area. Factoring in the cost of conducting this program resulted in an estimate of the average cost of the augmented runoff to be $2.02 per acre-foot.