Manipulating the Weather
cloud seeding

The staff from Beijing's Xiangshan Weather Modification Practice Base don't exactly look like superheroes do they?

China Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Part of what separates human beings from other animals is our propensity to change our environment to accommodate our needs. But some things elude our direct control, and weather is one of them, unless you're Storm from the X-Men. And who doesn't want to be? After all, how cool would it be to summon a sunny day at a moment's notice? Or generate a blizzard on a whim?

If only we had the Storm's superpower of weather manipulation, we might even be able to work out global warming. Think of it. Not only could we cool down the planet, we could also end droughts, and sports fans would never be forced to endure another frustrating rain delay again.

Although it's a far cry from Storm's excellent mutant abilities, scientists do have one technique up their sleeve for manipulating the weather: cloud seeding.

Cloud seeding can trace its roots back to the United States in the 1940s. Today, it's used to increase precipitation, disperse clouds and fog, and suppress hail [source: NAWC]. Depending on the environment and objectives, chemicals can be shot up from the ground or released mid-air, and there are a variety of cloud-seeding agents including silver iodide, salt, and ammonium nitrate [source: NAWC].

The Weather Modification Association issued a statement in July 2009 saying that cloud seeding with silver iodide doesn't harm the environment and furthermore, studies have proven the process to increase precipitation up to 30 percent in some cases [source: WMA]. With the ability to sometimes manipulate the weather, scientists are gaining on superheroes, but they still have a long way to fly.

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