India turns to cloud seeding to make rain

India is developing new techniques to create rain artificially amid growing fears over the late arrival of the monsoon season.

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A delay in the arrival of this year’s monsoon has left India’s paddy fields parched and caused water-shortages throughout the main cities Photo: AFP/GETTY

Scientists at its Institute of Tropical Meteorology disclosed a new series of “cloud seeding” experiments as fears of a drought grip a country praying for the heavens to open.

A delay in the arrival of this year’s monsoon has left India’s paddy fields parched and caused water-shortages throughout the main cities. A heatwave has claimed at least 24 lives, with the absence of the rain’s cooling effect on 45 degree C temperatures has caused power-cuts, while school summer holidays have been extended by a week in the hope of a downpour.

India’s agriculture, stock markets and the fortunes of its political parties traditionally depend on good monsoon rains. In one state, Andhra Pradesh, which has had only half the expected rainfall this month, farmers fear their crop yields could fall by 30 per cent.

The Indian government has used American cloud seeding technology in the past but is now developing its own techniques to guarantee monsoon clouds break into torrential rains.

Their work aims to unravel the mystery of why some clouds yield more rain and bigger raindrops than others and to replicate the same reaction using chemicals.

“Some clouds are efficient in giving rain while others don’t give that much. In the latter type of clouds, transformation of water vapour to rain doesn’t occur. The transformation requires cloud droplets to grow bigger in size to form drizzle and rain,” said Dr J.R. Kulkarni, one of the researchers.

His team is following the sweep of the Indian monsoon as it makes its way slowly north in a modified aircraft to monitor the properties of the “rainiest” clouds.

In the next stage, silver iodide bullets will be fired into the clouds to attract more vapour and generate larger ice crystals which fall as snow before melting into rain.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi
Published: 5:21PM BST 26 Jun 2009

Source: The Telegraph

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