Cloud seeding to bring back the rain in Jordan
Aircraft from the Royal Jordanian Air Force are being used in a series of rain-making operations over the kingdom. When they get word from the Jordan Meteorological Department, the pilots jump into their planes and head toward designated target areas to shoot flares loaded with silver iodide into cumulus clouds. The silver iodide particles should catalyse supercooled water droplets in the clouds to freeze at a warmer temperature, thus redistributing water vapour and releasing rain. The aim of this artificial rain-making is to fight against the severe water shortages induced in the country over the past two decades by climate change.
Early signs of success of the rain-making experiment have been recorded. Over the catchment area of the King Talal Dam, in northern Jordan, the performance of the rainy season was 150% higher than the historic average for the season, while it reached 145% in the Central Western regions and 167% in the Central Eastern regions. During the month of December 2016, the technology was used on most days, and there are indications it may have doubled rainfall levels for 17 days of the month. These results have prompted the government to extend the operation until March 2017.
The scientific community is still divided about the potential impacts of cloud seeding technology. For some scientists making rain is still more of an art than a science. Research is needed to better understand the practice and its environmental, social, and governance impacts. Ibrahim Al-Aroud, professor at the University of Mutah in Jordan, believes that “ionization technology is still an emerging technology which lacks any solid results to evaluate it in a scientific manner.” On the other hand, in the United Arab Emirates, a $5 million grant to promote innovative rain enhancement solutions, has recently spawned a promising new patent based on the application of nanotechnology to cloud seeding techniques. The race to make rain is wide open…