Precipitation formation from orographic cloud seeding

Jeffrey R. French, Katja Friedrich, Sarah A. Tessendorf, Robert M. Rauber, Bart Geerts, Roy M. Rasmussen, Lulin Xue, Melvin L. Kunkel, Derek R. Blestrud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Throughout the western United States and other semiarid mountainous regions across the globe, water supplies are fed primarily through themelting of snowpack. Growing populations place higher demands on water, while warmer winters and earlier springs reduce its supply. Water managers are tantalized by the prospect of cloud seeding as a way to increase winter snowfall, thereby shifting the balance between water supply and demand. Little direct scientific evidence exists that confirms even the basic physical hypothesis upon which cloud seeding relies. The intent of glaciogenic seeding of orographic clouds is to introduce aerosol into a cloud to alter the natural development of cloud particles and enhance wintertime precipitation in a targeted region. The hypothesized chain of events begins with the introduction of silver iodide aerosol into cloud regions containing supercooled liquid water, leading to the nucleation of ice crystals, followed by ice particle growth to sizes sufficiently large such that snow falls to the ground. Despite numerous experiments spanning several decades, no direct observations of this process exist. Here, measurements from radars and aircraft-mounted cloud physics probes are presented that together show the initiation, growth, and fallout to the mountain surface of ice crystals resulting from glaciogenic seeding. These data, by themselves, do not address the question of cloud seeding efficacy, but rather form a critical set of observations necessary for such investigations. These observations are unambiguous and provide details of the physical chain of events following the introduction of glaciogenic cloud seeding aerosol into supercooled liquid orographic clouds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1173
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 6 2018


  • Airborne observations
  • Cloud seeding
  • Clouds
  • Precipitation
  • Radar observations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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  • Cite this

    French, J. R., Friedrich, K., Tessendorf, S. A., Rauber, R. M., Geerts, B., Rasmussen, R. M., Xue, L., Kunkel, M. L., & Blestrud, D. R. (2018). Precipitation formation from orographic cloud seeding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(6), 1168-1173.