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Cloud seeding took place in Utah in the 1970s. At night in the winter I remember the drone of what sounded like a large turbo prop airplane flying in a north-south line, working it's way eastward. This was in the Pine Valley Mountains of southwest Utah.

I heard at the time that silver iodide was dispersed, I don't recall any mention of acetone or sodium iodide. My drinking water and water from the vegetable garden came from springs and creeks originating in and near the mountain. I never suffered any ill effects from the water.

In view of the extreme drought resulting from man-caused climate change, I believe cloud seeding might be beneficial as a temporary mitigating tool to build the winter snowpack in the mountains. One benefit of cloud seeding — and one that I want to focus on here — is building a snowpack to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires that are now prevalent in the western United States.

In the mountains of Southwestern Utah, where I lived in the 1970s, there have been several wildfires in the last 15 years. A major one in 2018 burned 11,000 acres off the top of the mountain and burned into three watershed canyons. These canyons were then subjected to devastating floods when the rains came because the fire had burned all of the trees and shrubs that would normally hold back the rains. The floods literally gutted these canyons of all vegetation and topsoil, rendering them unrecognizable.

These canyons were very similar to Hondo Canyon and its side canyons we love to hike, and the canyons that are tributaries and primary to the Rio Grande del Rancho. These floods then came out into the valley causing a great deal of damage to privately owned pasture lands, ripping out fences, depositing boulders, large timber and soil laden with ash and charcoal in springs, creeks, ponds and on the pastures. The ash that was carried in these flood waters killed all of the fish in the creeks, including the endangered Bonneville cutthroat trout.

Opponents might consider what could happen if wildfires of this type happen in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These mountains need a good winter snowpack to build soil and flora moisture to help get through the increasingly dry, windy summers.

If dispersing silver iodide crystals along with dry ice pellets (perhaps an alternative to acetone?) from aircraft would dispel some of the concerns of opponents, then this might be a compromise.

Ron Rencher lives in Taos.

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(2) comments

David Hanna

No one expects a single effort like cloud seeding to offset the effects of Climate Change. We are early in the development of cunter measures that can have real impact. That does not mean we should not do whatever we can now to begin the process and espcialy when it comes to water, the most precious resource we have here in the western US. This technology is not complicated and has a long history of safe use. We can argue how effective it has been, but to simply stand aside and not act, that is to me just plain foolish. We will be looking for that water next spring and summer in our wells, our public water systems and in the Acequias.

Dottie Butler

Do you really believe that cloud seeding will offset the effects of climate change?

The people that wanted to conduct cloud seeding withdrew their proposal voluntarily.

I'm not sure, but I think it was because they couldn't get taxpayer money to do it.

They were vague about whether or not they proposed cloud seeding to benefit the ski resorts.

If they want to have a real discussion about the pluses and minuses of cloud seeding and who they really represent they are still free to do so.

I don't believe that cloud seeding has been proven to come anywhere near offsetting the kind of drought we've been experiencing for the last decade or so.

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