Wichita Falls Will Go Through Cloud Seeding Evaluations

Wichita Falls Will Go Through Cloud Seeding Evaluations

SOAR is sending off data from the first four months of seeding for an evaluation. 

“They take the seeded clouds and find a likeness to that cloud in the vicinity and evaluate the amount of rainfall that came out of the non-seeded versus the seeded cloud,” said Walker. 

The evaluation will provide insight for future planning and missions. We want to find out the impact, the increase in volume, and how it benefits us, said Teresa Rose, Wichita Falls Deputy Director of Public Works. 

“So over the next few weeks that’s what I have asked them to have completed by the end of July,” said Walker.  “So I can give it to the city of Wichita Falls in early august.” 

Cloud seeding is currently on hold in Wichita Falls. The months of July and August are normally the driest months out of the year.

"So right now we are not seeding in July and August," said Gary Walker, with Seeding Operations and Atmospheric Research. The city of Wichita Falls "determined that those two months are pretty short on rainfall and we might not have many opportunities."

Even when the crew is grounded during a normal month, the city still has to foot a bill. So by putting the operation on hold for two months, the city doesn't have to pay the monthly cost.

The normal cost for cloud seeding is capped at $50,000. The city has to pay for fuel and flares used.

"A maximum $50,000 a month, and we didn't spend all that in the first four months," said Walker. "We didn't burn as much gas and as much fuel as we thought we would, they have a little bit of money left over from those first four months."

The city has a 6 month contract with the seeding operation program. Seeding missions are expected to pick back up in September, and the contract will end in October.

Although the city's contract is for 6 months, Walker said they can always get out of it. If city officials do not like the results from the seeding evaluation, or if it's not benefiting them overall, they can opt out of September and October seeding.

"We don't try to get them committed for the money making deal," Walker said. "Our commitment really is more about putting water on the ground."

There is a five day "kick me out" clause in the contract, according to Walker. If the city wants to stop seeding operations, they just have to give SOAR a five day notice.

He said he understands the expectations, and the cost of the operations.

"I mean that's tax payer's money. I served in the legislature, so I know what tax money means to people," Walker said.

A common misconception about cloud seeding is the area that is seeded. Seeding operations do not seed clouds headed to the city, they aim strictly on clouds heading toward the watershed.

There is, however, very little opportunity for cloud seeding to be effective in a drought, according to Walker.

"You know a lot of people get really serious about weather modification and cloud seeding when we're in a real drought, but that's not really the best time to do cloud seeding because you don't have many chances," Walker said.

Only a certain type of cloud can benefit from cloud seeding, and when you're in a drought, you generally don't have those types of clouds even coming in, according to Walker.

There are two methods for cloud seeding; one is for warm water and the other for cold. They use Silver Iodide for the cold water, and Calcium Chloride, a salt flare, for the warm water.

"The seeding agents either acts as a water soluble particle or as a structure, like ice, that attracts water," said Walker.

Other analysis reports, in other areas, using weather modification have seen increases in rain production, but every area varies, according to Walker.

"We are looking for a 5 percent to 10 percent increase" in rain production, said Rose.

City officials said they do plan to continue out their contract through September and October. But there has been no future talks of seeding programs yet, officials said they are waiting to see the results before making future plans.

Click here to see the cloud seeding reports for May and June.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6