An innovative scientific project aimed at increasing rainfall throughout south-east Queensland catchments by injecting clouds with rainmaking particles has commenced.
Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation, Andrew McNamara, said the Queensland Government is investing $7.6 million over four years in the cloud seeding research project.
“Cloud seeding aims to enhance the amount of rain falling from rain-bearing clouds,” Mr McNamara said.
“The first stage of the project - an intensive data collection research component to improve the knowledge of cloud science in South-east Queensland, as well as a trial seeding component – commenced this week.
“Cloud seeding is a technique that aims to add particles such as salt and silver iodide particles to clouds to enhance condensation and droplet and ice crystal formation.
“Successful cloud seeding won’t solve South-east Queensland’s water crisis on its own, but would be part of an overall package of initiatives including recycling, more efficient water use, desalination and new storage facilities.
“This project will focus on the Wivenhoe and Somerset dam catchments.
“Even a modest increase in rainfall over catchments has the potential to assist inflows to water storages and land uses in catchments to better address the impacts of protracted dry periods.
“It should be stressed that cloud seeding is not a mechanism for breaking droughts.
“Cloud seeding can change individual clouds or series of clouds but cannot change background weather and climate patterns.
“Seeding needs suitable clouds and the right conditions to be successful.
“Successes elsewhere in the world can’t be automatically translated to Queensland because of regional climate, cloud characteristics and topographic differences and the complexities of cloud seeding.
“Results of the trial will determine whether cloud seeding is suitable for use in South-east Queensland.
The project is being overseen by a Scientific Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Roger Stone from the University of Southern Queensland, to provide expertise and technical guidance for the project.
Mr McNamara said the recent weather patterns experienced in SEQ were quite suitable conditions for cloud seeding.
“National and international experience has shown cloud seeding to be most effective in average to above average seasons rather than drought years,” he said.
“Certainly the current La Nina is likely to afford more opportunities to seed than the previous El Nino year.”
The project is being managed by the Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence within the Environmental Protection Agency, working closely with the Bureau of Meteorology which is providing radar technology and weather pattern expertise.
Secret files reveal cloud-seeding plan
IN one of the previously secret 1983 state cabinet documents, released on New Year's Day under the 30-year rule, it was revealed the Bjelke-Petersen cabinet agreed to spend the money to conduct cloud seeding operations in Queensland.
The document reveals that $50,000 was spent on the trial.
In his February 18, 1983, submission to cabinet, Sir Joh successfully urged his colleagues to bankroll a trial of American meteorologist Irvine Krick's cloud seeding scheme.
"Basically, the Krick process generates ionised silver iodine particles in a generator located on the ground," Sir Joh wrote in his submission to cabinet.
"These particles are subsequently conveyed to the target cloud area by natural convection currents where they are released to increase the probability of rain."
Dr Irving, whose forecasts are credited with the timing of the massive D-day invasion of Normandy in World War II, was the United States' first commercial cloud seeder.
He died in 1996, aged 89.
In its obituary, the New York Times noted the American meteorological establishment, with whom Dr Irving had battled throughout his life, "thought his rainmaking techniques [were] of questionable value".
But, 13 years earlier in Queensland, Sir Joh at least was willing to give him a chance to prove his theories.
And time was of the essence.
"[Mr Krick's agent Albert] Oaki stressed that the chances of success in rain making are greatly enhanced if the process is carried out during the wet season and this allowed possibly only a further six to eight weeks, within Queensland this financial year," Sir Joh told his cabinet colleagues.
"The president of the Cattlemen's Union has suggested that the process may have applicability to the present drought situation facing Queensland's cattle producers ...
"I believe that the Krick process should, at least, be tested under the Queensland conditions during the current season, with a view to evaluating its potential for future larger scale weather modification, e.g. hail suppression and rainfall precipitation."
In 1983, more than 50 shires were drought declared in Queensland.
Cloud seeding stimulates rainfall, but what is it and how does it work?
Tasmanian Liberals have said that if re-elected they will put a stop to cloud seeding. Looking in from the outside the obvious question is, why?
Cloud seeding is the process of adding chemicals to clouds to increase rainfall.
Usually when it comes up, the debate is around if it actually works, but this time the stakes are higher than scientific curiosity, expense justification or environmental concerns.
In 2016, Hydro Tasmania conducted cloud seeding in the lead-up to deadly flooding in north-western Tasmania.
It was later found by Hydro Tasmania's independent report that the seeding "had no measurable impact on precipitation" — a conclusion further supported by an independent expert that caused community backlash.
After all, why were they doing it if it does not work?
How cloud seeding works
Professor Steven Siems of Monash University is one of Australia's leading cloud seeding experts and was involved with reviewing the 2016 event.
He said that the type of cloud seeding that had been found to be effective in Australia was "glaciogenic" cloud seeding.
The idea behind glaciogenic seeding is you take tiny little drops of super-cooled liquid water that are not growing efficiently enough to become rain drops and you convert them to ice by adding silver iodide.
This then helps the super-cooled water grow into snowflakes or raindrops ready to fall from the sky.
"Then we know that it will grow more quickly and those particles will grow to the size where they will precipitate appreciably, where you will get some meaningful precipitation from those clouds," Professor Siems said.
Glaciogenic seeding only works if the conditions are just right.
One of the places where it works is Tasmania, where Hydro Tasmania's cloud-seeding operation used light aircraft to deliver the silver iodide when the right conditions were forecast.
Another good spot for glaciogenic seeding is over the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, where Australia's other big operation takes place.
The Snowy Hydro also uses silver iodide, but its delivery method is a little different.
James Pirozzi, manager of weather and water at Snowy Hydro, explained how.
"We've got a series of ground-based generators on the western side of the Great Dividing Range in the Kosciusko National Park, and we use the natural terrain features in the wind to give us uplift to get that material from the ground up into the clouds," Mr Pirozzi said.
"Those generators, the burners themselves [are] essentially a big propane flame.
They're almost like a barbecue on the back of the trailer."
Mr Pirozzi said the organisation did about 100 hours of burning a year, but it was highly variable and dependent on the conditions.
At the Snowy Hydro cloud seeding was only done when conditions were right to make snow and not rain.
Filling the dams was the top priority, but maintaining a good snowfield was seen as a welcome bonus of the program.
But does it really work?
Cloud seeding was first trialled in Australia in 1947 when the CSIRO got up in a light plane and released crushed dry ice into promising-looking clouds.
Researchers have been trying to definitively decide if it works ever since.
A 2009 paper looking into cloud seeding in Tasmania found "the rainfall over the target was somewhere between 5 per cent and 13 per cent greater than over a nearby control region".
Another peer reviewed paper suggested an average 14 per cent increase in rainfall due to the Snowy Mountain cloud seeding trials. An independent review found the results to be positive but inconclusive.
Proving anything beyond doubt is hard, especially when dealing with the real world. Critics would say these studies were based on statistical analysis of rainfall data and did not include the comprehensive field work that could show cause and effect.
This criticism could soon be invalid. Research out of the United States has been doing the field work needed to establish the cause and effect relationship.
But according to Professor Siems there is not a move to conduct those kinds of tests here in Australia.
"You're looking at getting aircraft and getting radars out there. It's not a cheap process."
Conditions different from normal
Hydro Tasmania's flight on June 5, 2016 lasted for an hour and 34 minutes over the Upper Derwent catchment, targeting Lake Echo, which was below preferred levels at the time.
The review found the cloud seeding flight did not contribute to subsequent flooding.
Professor Siems, who made a submission to the coronial inquest into the flooding, said, "Basically the cloud they had seeded already had tons of ice in it, or already was heavily glaciated, so adding more ice nuclei to it had really no impact whatsoever.
"If there's already ice in there, then putting in more ice nuclei isn't going to have any impact."
The flight was not effective because the conditions were very different from normal.
Professor Siems said normally Hydro Tasmania looked at the baseline air coming off the southern ocean where there was a lot of super cooled liquid water, and that is what it targeted.
On June 5, 2016, Tasmania was dealing with an east coast low coming down the coast that brought very different conditions.
There were no flood warnings in place for the Upper Derwent or Great Lake catchments at the time of the cloud seeding flight, and in a statement, Hydro Tasmania pointed out that the target seeding catchment was not the one that caused the Ouse River flood.
Hydro Tasmania's cloud seeding operation has been on hold since the incident.
Other issues of concern
The other issue that is commonly brought up is that by seeding, one area 'steals' the rain that would have fallen downwind.
Mr Pirozzi said in the Snowy Mountains, despite annual reports they were "yet to see any distinguishable trend in terms of changes in downwind precipitation".
He said conditions that were good for cloud seeding were often associated with dry conditions on the other side of the range, with or without seeding.
The other common concern is about the release of silver iodide.
Mr Pirozzi and his team at Snowy Hydro have been through extensive environmental testing that has shown the amount of silver iodide used is not harmful.
"It is literally like looking for a needle in the haystack. We released about 20 kilos in total of silver iodide a year on average, across an area of over 2,000 square kilometres.
"So, we're looking at parts per trillion of silver in the atmosphere."
While Hydro Tasmania's program could soon come to an end, there are no plans to stop Snowy Hydro's cloud-seeding operations.
By Kate Doyle
Hydro Tasmania asked to explain cloud seeding in catchment day before flooding
Tasmania's government-owned energy company has been asked to explain why it conducted cloud seeding over the Derwent River catchment the day before flooding began this week.
- Hydro Tasmania authorised cloud seeding, which increases rain, in a catchment hit hard by floods
- Premier seeks explanation from Hydro
- Hydro says inappropriate to comment, pending inquiries
- Search continues for Ouse farmer
The catchment flooded on Monday near Ouse in southern Tasmania, where the search continues for a missing farmer.
In the state's north, one person was killed and another remains missing.
Cloud seeding is a technique used to increase rain to bolster dams and involves the addition of a substance to suitable clouds to encourage the growth of ice crystals or raindrops.
Premier Will Hodgman said he was told Hydro Tasmania authorised cloud seeding on Sunday morning in the Upper Derwent catchment, even though heavy falls were forecast.
Mr Hodgman told 936 ABC Hobart Hydro's decision was difficult to fathom at face value but Energy Minister Matthew Groom was seeking answers.
"That's why we've sought the explanation from Hydro Tasmania as to those matters, the Minister has sought that," he said.
"It's certainly my expectation that will be provided at the earliest opportunity to respond to those matters."
Hydro Tasmania has confirmed it flew a cloud seeding flight the day huge storms approached the country's east coast.
Documents show the flight took place on Sunday morning while there were flood warnings in place in the north.
The flight seeded clouds for more than an hour and a half just north of Great Lake, one of the largest water storage dams in the state.
The flight was targeting the Upper Derwent catchment, which mainly feeds water to several hydro electric dams which lie downstream.
Farmers demand answers
Farmers in the Ouse area, like Scott Ashton-Jones, want to know why the cloud seeding went ahead while flood warnings were in place for the northern half of Tasmania.
"The extent to which cloud seeding has exaggerated the flood is still to be determined of course, but the evidence from previous cloud seeding operations is that it works and therefore it will have exaggerated the flood to some extent," he said.
"The Hydro has always claimed positive results from cloud seeding."
George Mills said he could hear the flight on Sunday morning, and wondered what was going on.
"We want to understand whether the cloud seeding has helped to create this massive flood from the local rivers which we've never ever seen," he said.
"If the Hydro have had something to do with that with their cloud seeding, well we want to understand that because in the future we need to have closer information."
Hydro 'not in position' to comment
Hydro Tasmania will not answer questions about both Sunday's cloud seeding flight and its policies on using the technique when there are current flood warnings.
What is cloud seeding?
- Hydro Tasmania describes cloud seeding as a technique for increasing precipitation (eg. rain or snow) using naturally occurring clouds
- "It involves the introduction of additional particles into suitable clouds to encourage the formation and growth of ice crystals or raindrops and thus increase the amount of precipitation that will fall from the cloud"
A spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to comment.
"At this point Hydro Tasmania is not in a position to provide more information," she said.
"Experience suggests that in the aftermath of a severe natural disaster such as this some form of government inquiry follows.
"In light of the unfortunate death of one person, and with grave fears for two people still missing, there is likely to be at least a coronial inquest."
The community of Ouse has been left devastated by the floods, which arrived with little warning in the early hours of Monday morning.
Farmers in the district have reported the loss of hundreds of sheep and cattle, and significant infrastructure losses.
Bureau had flood warnings in place
The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed flood warnings were in place for regions of Tasmania when the flight took place.
"The first media release alerting the Tasmanian community to likely impacts of the event was issued on Friday 3 June," a weather bureau spokesperson said.
"Detailed updates have been provided directly to the local media throughout the event."
The spokesperson said the first flood watch for Tasmania was issued at midday on Friday, with warnings following on Saturday.
"The first flood warnings were issued on Saturday afternoon: six to 12 hours before significant rain began to fall across northern Tasmania," they said.
The first minor flood warning for the Ouse and Derwent rivers was issued at 10:36pm on Sunday, after the cloud seeding flight took place.
The next day, unprecedented rainfall resulted in major flood warnings for seven Tasmanian rivers, including the Derwent and Ouse.
China plans rain-making network the size of Queensland
China is aiming to solve its water shortage by building a hi-tech rain-making network the size of Queensland.
Scientists plan to use military-grade technology to build a vast network of fuel-burning chambers high up on the Tibetan mountains, reports the South China Morning Post.If successful, the ambitious project would increase rainfall in the region by as much as 10billion cubic metres a year -or about 7percent of China’s water consumption – researchers said.
But achieving that target involves building tens of thousands of chambers 5000m up the Tibetan plateau across an area of 1.6mllion square kilometres – about the size of Queensland.By burning solid fuel in the chambers, silver iodide which has a crystal-like formation is produced.
The other key component is wind containing water vapour from the Indian monsoon.When it reaches the Tibetan plateau, it would then sweep the silver iodide particles into the clouds to stimulate snow and rain.A scientist from the project told the South China Morning Post trials involving 500 burners had so far produced “very promising results”.“Sometimes snow would start falling almost immediately after we ignited the chamber. It was like standing on the stage of a magic show,” he said.
Giant defence and space contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is behind the project.Scientists from the state-owned company drew on rocket propulsion systems in the chamber design, enabling them to burn the solid fuel in the oxygen-scarce mountain locations.The project is another form of cloud seeding – the artificial increase of moisture in clouds to stimulate rainfall. While similar projects are underway in countries such as the US and Dubai using planes and drones, nothing rivals the scale of China’s grandiose Tibetan plan.But the superpower’s thirst for more rain brings with it the risk of regional tensions.The massive glaciers and extensive subterranean of the Tibetan plateau make it one of Asia’s biggest water reserves, feeding rivers such as the Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow.As well as China, they and other river systems flow through India, Laos, Myanmar and Nepal, supplying millions of people.
By Richard Wood
Thai rain making comes to Qld
A rain-making method developed by Thai king Bhumipol Adulyadej is set to aid Queensland in battles with drought after an agreement between the state government and the Thai royal household.
The Queensland government's access to the rain-making technology, developed by King Bhumipol over the past 30 years, came a year after the state approached the royal household last year.
As a result, Queensland is set to be the first major region outside Thailand where the rain-making technology will be put into full effect.
In the past, Australia had joined other nations requesting information exchange and technology on the technique.
But Soothiporn Jitmittraparp, secretary general of the National Research Council of Thailand, said similarities in topography in Thailand and Queensland would be beneficial to the success of the project.
"The climate and geology of Queensland drought area is very similar to some parts of Thailand. So we're quite sure this technology can be used effectively in Queensland," Soothiporn told AAP.
The technique largely relies on cloud seeding generally undertaken using chemicals that promote the formation of water droplets within the cloud formations.
The chemical cloud seeding in turn creates clouds with differing temperatures at different altitudes.
There are several stages in the process, with sodium chloride used in the final stage to trigger rain.
"If that kind of cloud is set up in a very good condition, then the cloud will condense into water and the rain will begin falling," Soothiporn said.
In Thailand, the cloud-seeding method has been applied in the largely drought-affected north-east of the country as well as boosting water volume in dams and reservoirs and aiding reforestation programs.
Mr Soothiporn said the agreement is also set to boost bilateral cooperation between Thailand and Australia in areas of meteorology and weather programs.
Talks between the state government and the Thai royal household began in 2009 but an agreement was reached only in June.
It allows for exchange of scientists to study the rain-making methods. The technique was recognised in 2005 and covered by patents in 30 European countries.
Reports said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh had recently forwarded a letter to King Bhumipol, now 83, acknowledging the assistance for access to the techniques.
Queensland initially made the request for assistance when the state was more than 35 per cent drought affected in 2009. But heavy rains across the region over the first half of this year has left less than two per cent of coverage still affected.
By Ron Corben
The Australian companies manipulating our weather
Over five decades of weather manipulation in Australia.
For over five decades in Australia, the study of clouds, rain and the atmosphere has been largely hidden from the public, as a secretive network of government agencies and private business interests continue to manipulate the weather around us to their personal benefit.
Geoengineering, or weather manipulation, has now become commonly accepted as the deliberate intervention or large-scale manipulation of the climate system of Earth to counteract ‘global warming’ or to influence the environment.
Global climate is controlled by the amount of solar radiation received by Earth and also by the fate of this energy within the Earth system. That is, how much is absorbed by Earth’s surface and how much is reflected or reradiated back into space.
The reflectance of solar radiation is controlled by several mechanisms, including Earth’s surface albedo and cloud coverage and the presence in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).
To this notion, geoengineering aims to target these key areas, with two main underlying techniques responsible: direct carbon dioxide removal, such as cloud seeding, and solar radiation management that aims to cool the planet by reflecting more sunlight.
Geoengineering proposals were first developed in the middle of the 20th century. Relying on technologies developed during World War II, such proposals were designed to alter weather systems in order to obtain more favourable climate conditions on a regional scale.
Australia has been heavily involved in these processes since the beginning of advancements in technology, with major projects, documented experiments, legislative pieces and more, for over 50 years.
CSIRO: CREATING THE RAIN
One of the best-known techniques of geoengineering is cloud seeding, a process that attempts to bring rain to parched farmland by dispersing particles of silver iodide or solid carbon dioxide into rain-bearing clouds.
Cloud seeding may involve attempting to produce rain when none would normally fall or it may be working to increase precipitation over a particular area.
This theory began in Australia shortly following the world’s first laboratory trials, after new research papers published by USA researchers I Langmuir and V Schaefer stated that rain could be induced by seeding clouds with dry ice.
After a series of experiments in New York, the two researchers managed to make it rain using silver iodide bullets. They got a patent for their technique, referred to as ‘cloud seeding’, soon after.
As a result of the international study, cloud seeding was first trialed in Australia in 1947 when the CSIRO used Royal Australian Air Force aircrafts to drop dry ice into the tops of cumulus clouds.
According to CSIRO history, the method worked reliably with clouds that were very cold, producing rain that would not have otherwise fallen, leading to more subsequent trials.
The first documented date of this success was in 1947. Described by CSIRO:
“This is believed to be the first documented case anywhere in the world of an appreciable man-made rainfall reaching the ground and the first time that dynamic cloud growth had followed seeding.”
Following the success of initial trials, CSIRO scientists would continue this work until 1952, soon expanding to include theoretical, laboratory and airborne investigations of cloud structure and reaction:
CSIRO carried out similar trials from 1953 to 1956 in South Australia, Queensland and other states, however this time covering a large area instead of singular clouds as before, and developed new techniques to show to the world:
Experiments used both ground-based and airborne silver iodide generators to gain results. Each experiment covered a target area of 2,000 to 8,000 square kilometres and a neighbouring control area of the same size which was not seeded.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, CSIRO performed cloud seeding in the Snowy Mountains, on the York Peninsular in South Australia, in the New England district of New South Wales, and in the Warragamba catchment area west of Sydney.
CSIRO’s activities in Tasmania in the 1960s were also successful, with seeding over the Hydro Electricity Commission catchment area on the Central Plateau achieved documented rainfall increases as high as 30% in autumn.
The Tasmanian experiments were so successful that the Commission has regularly undertaken seeding ever since in mountainous parts of the state.
Furthermore, striking results documented across Australia held such promise at the time that new systematic programs of cloud seeding were set up as a result for the next fifty-years.
This work is done today by the CSIRO Division of Cloud Physics under the ‘Marine and Atmospheric Research’.
As technological advancements began to take shape on a global level, so did the scale of programs and cooperation between countries to advance these techniques in the 20th Century.
The Jindalee Operational Radar Network is a multi-billion dollar high frequency over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) that uses the ionosphere to monitor air and sea movements across at least 37,000 square kilometres.
JORN became a core research project from 1970 and was developed to provide surveillance across Australia’s northern sea and air approaches, and is Australia’s first comprehensive land and air early warning system.
It provides a 24-hour military surveillance of the northern and western approaches to Australia, and also serves a civilian purpose in assisting in detecting movements.
It is used in the ‘defence of Australia’, and can also monitor maritime operations, wave heights and wind directions.
In 1991, the Commonwealth awarded Telstra (previously Telecom) a prime contract worth $860 million to design and construct the Jindalee Operational Radar Network.
Telstra awarded major sub-contracts to GEC Marconi and Telstar Systems, a joint venture between Telstra and Lockheed Martin Corporation, and is supported by BAE Systems Australia, according to the SA government.
RLM Management Company, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and the Tenix Group assumed full management responsibility for the JORN project in 1997.
BAE Systems will undertake significant upgrades to the JORN, with a $1.2 billion enhancement set to peak at more than 500 highly technical jobs, many of them in South Australia, over the next 10 years.
Although no longer operational, one of the most public cases of geoengineering to hit Australia was Project Stormfury, which from the mid-1960s to 1980s was a project dedicated to experimental hurricane modification.
The hypothesis was that the silver iodide would cause supercooled water in the storm to freeze, disrupting the inner structure of the hurricane. This led to the seeding of several Atlantic hurricanes.
In the late-1970s, the project would make the journey to Australia for experiments:
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro alleged that Project Stormfury was an attempt to weaponize hurricanes, as a new field of weaponized warfare became a reality as the 20th century came to a close following this suite of experiments.
Although now gone, this program would pioneer cloud seeding across the world.
THE COMPANIES INVOLVED
Geoengineering continues across Australia in 2018 – and is more advanced than ever.
Today, while some government-run projects exist, the most popular type of project involves coordination between the government and a private company.
A key example of a modern operation currently bringing these experiments to the modern era – one of two of the largest in Australia – is weather and water experimental company, Snowy Hydro, based out of the Snowy Mountains in NSW.
Following initial cloud seeding trials in 2004 in the region, Snowy found that the “exceptional scientific merit of the trial”, “positive results of the evaluation”, and “absence of adverse environmental impacts” were sufficiently ‘compelling’ for the government to pass legislation for an ongoing, operational cloud seeding program.
James Pirozzi, manager at Snowy Hydro, explained how their technology works and has developed in the 21st century:
“We’ve got a series of ground-based generators on the western side of the Great Dividing Range in the Kosciusko National Park, and we use the natural terrain features in the wind to give us uplift to get that material from the ground up into the clouds,” Mr Pirozzi said.
Those generators, the burners themselves [are] essentially a big propane flame.”
The cloud seeding activities undertaken by Snowy Hydro are authorised by the Snowy Mountains Cloud Seeding Act 2004 (Act), which prescribes a number of mandatory requirements for cloud seeding programs in NSW.
A 2009 paper looking into cloud seeding found “overall rainfall over targets was somewhere between 5 per cent and 13 per cent greater than over a nearby control region”.
Another recent peer reviewed paper suggested an average 14 per cent increase in rainfall due to recent Snowy Mountain cloud seeding trials.
A company by the name of Hydro Tasmania conducted were also recently under fire for cloud seeding in the lead-up to deadly flooding in north-western Tasmania that resulted in a coronial inquest.
It was later found in a DPAC review that the seeding from Hydro “had no measurable impact on precipitation” — despite the flight lasting for an hour and 34 minutes over the Upper Derwent catchment, targeting Lake Echo.
The review found the cloud seeding flight did not contribute to subsequent flooding of 2016.
Hydro Tasmania’s cloud seeding operation has been on hold since the incident.
Weather Modification, Inc. also supported the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency during their 2008 ‘Feasibility Study for the Augmentation of Rain & Air Chemistry Monitoring’ – providing an instrumented aircraft and crew for cloud seeding.
In December 2006, the Queensland government announced $7.6 million in funding for “warm cloud” seeding research to be conducted jointly by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the United States National Center for Atmospheric Research.
These are only a few examples!
MURDOCH AND TURNBULL
Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced in 2007 that $10 million from the Australian Government Water Fund will be given to the investigation of an ‘untried technology’ that aims to trigger rainfall from the atmosphere, even when there are no clouds.
The money bankrolls research into mysterious ionisation technology promoted by the secretive Australian Rain Corporation (now Australian Rain Technologies), in hopes of using forthcoming trials to show the technology can bring increased rain.
The company will be taking methods previously discussed above, and adding electrification of the ionosphere to create clouds out of thin air, even when there is no rain, a technique so far not explored.
Mr. Turnbull’s office says there was no breach of caretaker protocol because the project was actually approved before the election was announced.
Malcolm Turnbull’s fundraising group, the Wentworth Forum, includes a long list of generous donors responsible for this move, including Frank Lowy, Ros Packer, John Simons, and Matt Handbury – chairman and part-owner of the Australian Rain Corporation!
It has been revealed that Mr. Handbury is the wealthy nephew of Rupert Murdoch and chairman and proprietor of Murdoch Books, which is the headquarters for Australian Rain Corporation!
All starting to make sense now?
Malcolm Turnbull was asked the following question in relation to the connection by the ABC in 2007: Has Matt Handbury’s contribution to your fundraising Wentworth Forum helped in securing funding for the Australian Rain Corporation?
“There is absolutely no connection,” he said.
“That is an outrageous suggestion”.
Requests for interviews with Mr. Turnbull, the head of the Australian Rain Corporation, the head of the center contracted to test the device were declined.
By TOTT News
Early rain-making experiments in Queensland
In Australia, water can be a scarce commodity, with various areas of the country suffering through prolonged droughts at times. Its no wonder then that several 'cloud seeding' (rain-making) experiments have been conducted in Australia. Here are the tales of two unsuccessful Queensland rainmaking experiments -
In January 1882, advertisements began appearing in the Brisbane Courier newspaper promoting a public scientific experiment at Eagle Farm racecourse in the city's inner north. To be conducted by Professor John Henry Pepper, the experiment was an attempt at rain-making, also known as "tapping the clouds". The opportunity to witness such a feat came at a price, sixpence to be exact, although the stated reason for this was to "prevent overcrowding the vicinity of the professor's apparatus".
Nearly 700 turned up on February 4, hoping to see the creator of the famous "Pepper's ghost" illusion make it rain.
The experiment began with the firing of rockets into the sky. The crowd got more than it bargained for when two of the rockets took horizontal trajectories - one flew over a fence and the other close to spectators.
Next, the professor attempted to raise a 4.2m kite into the clouds, whereupon a landmine attached to the metal-framed kite would be detonated. Alas, every attempt to raise the kite failed, with even members of the crowd trying in vain.
The Brisbane Courier stated that "nothing short of a hurricane" would have been strong enough to lift it off the ground.
While the experiment was a fizzer, someone had the foresight to provide additional entertainment in the form of a woman with a trained and obviously disgruntled donkey that dislodged all who attempted to ride it, and music was supplied by an artillery band. The Courier reported both entertainments "induced to regard in a merciful spirit the pseudo-scientific fiasco they had come to witness".
In the midst of one of the worst droughts in recorded history, in September 1902 the Queensland town of Charleville pinned its hopes on rainmaking by means of firepower. Enter Clement Wragge, government-appointed meteorologist, who was fascinated by the Steiger Vortex Gun. These cannons had been deployed throughout Europe, where they were fired into storm clouds to prevent hail forming and damaging crops. Wragge believed the scientific theory could be extrapolated and the Steiger Vortex Gun used to bring rain to Queensland.
In January 1902, a meeting of the Charleville municipal council agreed to partly fund the manufacturing of six guns, with the shortfall to be raised through public subscriptions. In mid-September, Wragge travelled to Charleville to supervise the installation of the six cannons. He left operating instructions, after which it was a matter of waiting for a suitably cloudy day.
That day came on September 26. At midday, ten shots were fired from each gun in quick succession. Soon after there were a few drops of rain followed by a small shower. A second firing at 4.30pm yielded no rain but resulted in two of the guns exploding. Wragge was interviewed by the Brisbane Courier newspaper and blamed the failure on too much explosive powder coupled with insufficient rounds:
"I distinctly stated that the guns only be charged with 7.2 ounces of powder ... if the Charleville people will not carry out my instructions, I cannot help it." Wragge maintained they should have continued firing for ten minutes at the rate of two shots a minute from each gun, not just ten shots in total.
At the cessation of the Second World War Taffy Bowen and his staff at the Division of Radiophysics began to look around for work of interest to themselves and of importance to Australia. One of those areas was cloud and rain physics which Bowen initiated and led until his retirement in 1971. For over five decades, the study of clouds, rain and the atmosphere has been the work of the CSIRO Division of Cloud Physics, now known as Marine and Atmospheric Research.
The ‘rainmakers’ carried out experiments over South Australia, Tasmania, the Snowy Mountains, the Warragamba Dam catchment area west of Sydney and New England. They used dry ice and silver iodide to ‘seed’ clouds, which resulted in the production of rain.
The first year’s results were tremendously heartening, with rainfall increases of up to 30 per cent in the target areas. But frustration followed. Rainfall appeared to deteriorate and was more variable in the target areas than before the experiments started.
Today, CSIRO uses the lessons learnt from their cloud seeding experiments to develop better models for weather forecasting and changes in climate.
In 1946 USA researchers I Langmuir and V Schaefer reported that rain could be induced by seeding clouds with dry ice. While many reacted cautiously to these claims Bowen immediately saw the potential importance of the technique for dry Australia. Within months, two members of his staff had investigated Langmuir and Schaefer’s work and, on their return, had carried out a trial in eastern New South Wales using RAAF aircraft. Success was immediate – the date was 5 February 1947. It was a day when deep cumulus cloud covered the country inland from Sydney. All the clouds appeared similar in type and size which was important for a clear-cut result. A plane dumped dry ice into one cloud and within minutes rain started to fall while the cloud-top mushroomed explosively. The rain lasted several hours and more than 12 millimetres fell over an area of 80 square kilometers. Surrounding clouds gave no rain. This is believed to be the first documented case anywhere in the world of an appreciable man-made rainfall reaching the ground and the first time that dynamic cloud growth had followed seeding. This striking result held such promise that a systematic program of cloud seeding was set up in February 1947 and continued for the next twenty-four years.
In Australia, where fickle rainfall has elated and then downcast countrymen from the time the first pioneers saw once brimming rivers and lush pastures fade to muddied waterholes and dustry earh, it was almost inevitable that the weather modification work of the Division of Cloud Physics should concentrate on rain-making. The Division’s work included theoretical, laboratory and airborne investigations of cloud structure and reaction.
Natural variability of rain has been the rain-makers’ single biggest headache. As the scientists recalled:
It makes it terribly difficult to prove anything. You can go to an area and influence rain-potential clouds so that it looks as if you have increased the rainfall. But how much rain would have fallen if you hadn’t interfered with them? On one occasion you simply can’t tell. But if you keep on repeating the experiment, and keep on increasing the rain, eventually you can prove you caused the increase.
In this cloud seeding research, the Division of Cloud Physics worked closely with State Departments of Agriculture. Each Department had regional referees to evaluate rain needs and public opinion in various areas. Before any rain-making program started, public meetings were held to vote on the issue. But the weather is never right for everyone and the Division received letters from irate landowners blaming rain-making experiments for unwanted downpours.
As little was known about the properties of clouds in Australia or the mechanisms of rainfall, Bowen initiated a vigorous research program of cloud studies. This included not only the effects of adding dry ice to cold clouds, but also the effect of spraying water into warm clouds which are responsible for much of the rainfall in the warmer parts of Australia. Bowen took part in the latter work himself and during 1950-55 published papers on the theory of coalescent rainfall and directed experimental trials.
Dry ice has a temperature of -80 °C or colder. If a piece the size of a pea is dropped into a supercooled cloud it will fall as far as three kilometres before evaporating completely, leaving a wake of ice crystals. In the right conditions, each crystal will feed on cloud droplets to form a large snowflake which melts to a raindrop as it reaches lower and warmer levels. This attractively simple principle was used from 1947 to 1950 near Sydney when 45-kilogram loads of dry ice were dropped into suitable clouds, their near neighbours being left unseeded to provide a basis for comparison. The principle seemed to work best with continental cumulus cloud masses where the air was dirty so that lots of small droplets were formed which were unlikely to coalesce of their own accord.
The difficulty with this method of stimulating rainfall was that only a few clouds could be treated on any one day and large amounts of dry ice were required. This limitation was overcome by the discovery, again in the USA, that tiny quantities of silver iodide smoke could be used as a seeding agent. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bowen saw the potential for seeding large areas from the air using silver iodide burners mounted on an aircraft. Silver iodide smoke particles provide ‘kernels’ on which ice crystals can grow in a supercooled cloud. Theoretically, grams of silver iodide will do much the same job as kilograms of dry ice, so that smaller and cheaper aircraft can be used. Silver iodide seems to work best in layer clouds formed in air coming in from the sea.
From 1955 to 1963 the rain-makers carried out four intensive experiments over South Australia, the Snowy Mountains, the Warragamba Dam catchment area west of Sydney, and the New England region of NSW. For each experiment there was a target area of 2 000 to 8 000 square kilometres and a neighbouring control area of the same size which was not seeded. A network of up to 150 rain gauges covered each area. The first two years were so successful, with an estimated rainfall increase of 25%, that several more regions were quickly selected. There the early indications were also successful, but in many subsequent years all areas showed a gradual decay of the induced rainfall with time. Most people would have become discouraged by such a result and given up. Bowen, however, proposed a simple explanation, based on the idea that a persistence phenomenon
The Tasmanian cloud-seeding experiments
Tasmania was chosen for subsequent cloud-seeding trials. The experiments were designed to compensate for quirks in the results of previous experiments, which had frustrated the rain-makers and led them to a serious re-evaluation of their programs. This experiment in 1971 was a success but since Bowen had now retired, the result was not immediately attributed to the correctness of his persistence hypothesis
Subsequent work by EK Bigg has done much to explain the detailed mechanism of the phenomenon. With the continuing success of cloud seeding work by the Australian states of Tasmania and Victoria and the recognition of the role of persistence, there appears now to be a promising future for the rain making techniques that Bowen did so much to pioneer.
Bowen’s theories on periodic rainfall
Bowen’s remarkable energy and enthusiasm were evident also in other programs. He was not afraid to speculate and presented his intuitive ideas with a persuasive and engaging optimism that was either inspiring or alarming to his colleagues, depending on their views of science. Two of his well known theories about periodic rainfall variations illustrate this.
The influence of meteor showers
From the daily rainfall records for Sydney over the period 1859 to 1952 and for stations elsewhere in New South Wales and in other countries, Bowen found well defined peaks of rainfall in January and February. These anomalies he correlated with the passage of the Earth, 30 days earlier, through specific meteor streams that orbit the sun. He suggested that the smaller particles fell through the atmosphere to cloud level in 30 days, where they induced the observed rainfall.
The apparent physical implausibility of this hypothesis attracted a wave of criticism: the number of particles was insufficient, the fall time would not be fixed, and the particles would not form ice crystals. Even the reality of the anomalies was vigorously questioned, but independent analysis showed that they were statistically significant. But Bowen was not impressed by purely statistical arguments and insisted that his staff probe crucial aspects of his hypothesis by empirical tests in clouds. Whether he was right to invoke meteor showers to explain the rainfall anomalies and if so, how they influenced clouds after a fixed time interval, has yet to be demonstrated.
In 1962, following a paper published in the USA, Bowen and Adderley showed that there were similar lunar effects in the monthly rainfall records for fifty New Zealand stations with comparable magnitude and closely related phase. The reality of the effect was beyond doubt. Independent frequency analysis revealed an amplitude variation of 20% and a periodicity of 29.5307 days. The mean period between full moons is 29.5306 days.
Bowen suggested that the Moon, revolving about the Earth, could modulate the amount of meteor dust reaching the Earth, and later showed that meteor rates in both the northern and southern hemispheres varied similarly with lunar phase. He argued that the Moon could intercept the particles or alternatively could deflect them because of electrostatic charges on the Moon and particles. Modern studies by his colleague, EK Bigg, however, suggest that the Moon’s influence on rainfall is more likely to be caused by the lunar tides in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The cloud and rain physics group, under Bowen’s leadership, worked in a most stimulating environment. Even his more speculative ideas sometimes drove his critics to discover truths that would otherwise have remained hidden. Over twenty-four years, the group established a high international reputation with its achievements and an impressive number of sound scientific publications.
- Brown RH, Minnett HC, White FWG, 1992, Biographical memoirs: Edward George Bowen 1911-1991 (Australian Academy of Science)
- McKay A, 1976, ‘The rain-makers’, In: Surprise and Enterprise, Fifty Years of Science for Australia, White F, Kimpton D (eds), CSIRO Publishing, p.33.
The Queensland cloud seeding research program
In late 2006 the Queensland government decided to establish the Queensland Cloud Seeding Research Program (QCSRP) in southeastern Queensland to determine the feasibility of cloud seeding as a component of its long-term water management strategy.
The Queensland water management strategy recognizes the need for a broad portfolio of water sources to account for the uncertainties and costs associated with each type of source.
While it was not expected that cloud seeding would restore southeastern Queensland's water supply levels to pre-drought values, it seemed valuable to determine whether certain types of seeding techniques might impact rainfall and water supplies in the region and whether that impact could be quantified. The project was developed as a collaboration between a number of institutions from Australia, the United States, and South Africa, and included field measurements over the course of two wet seasons.
A two-pronged approach was taken to a) conduct a randomized cloud seeding experiment and b) assemble state-of-the-art instrumentation systems to collect data on the complete physical process from cloud formation to seeding to precipitation.
By Tessendorf, Sarah A. and Bruintjes, Roelof T. and Weeks, Courtney and Wilson, James W. and Knight, Charles A. and Roberts, Rita D. and Peter, Justin R. and Collis, Scott and Buseck, Peter R. and Freney, Evelyn and Dixon, Michael and Pocernich, Matthew and Ikeda, Kyoko and Axisa, Duncan and Nelson, Eric and May, Peter T. and Richter, Harald and Piketh, Stuart and Burger, Roelof P. and Wilson, Louise and Siems, Steven T. and Manton, Michael and Stone, Roger C. and Pepler, Acacia and Collins, Don R. and Bringi, V. N. and Thurai, M. and Turner, Lynne and McRae, David (2012) The Queensland cloud seeding research program. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 93 (1). pp. 75-90. ISSN 0003-0007
Conspiracy claims about NSW and Queensland floods fall flat
According to fact checker that sucks Pfizer's sock for cash
WHAT WAS CLAIMED
Cloud seeding caused record-breaking floods in Queensland and NSW.
False. Cloud seeding is impossible on the scale of the NSW and Queensland floods. A La Nina weather system is the cause.
The claim is false. Weather and cloud-seeding experts say it is impossible for the rain-making technology to work on such a large scale, and the incessant downpours are due to a La Nina weather system – a fact that has been stated publicly by the Bureau of Meteorology.
Heavy rain and flooding in eastern Australia in late February and early March has been some of the worst in decades, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people, swamping towns and regional centres and destroying infrastructure.
In a YouTube video published on March 2 and shared on Facebook, an interview with a man named Robert Deutsch on the Messages from the Underground channel espouses a theory that Australia’s weather has been manipulated to create a “weather bomb” – misusing an unofficial meteorological term for a rapid drop in pressure during a storm system.
“Why are they shooting chem bombs off your coast? Why are they having a fireworks display with stuff that’s gonna do damage? When this program could clearly stop this rain. It can. It can cause drought or rain. Geoengineering says it could do so,” Mr Deutsch says (video mark 34 min 30 sec).
He later claims: “This is a weather bomb. … This is weather warfare on the peaceful people of Australia” (video mark 46 min).
Mr Deutsch shows several screenshots of radar images from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, pointing out shapes and patterns in clouds and claiming they are evidence of material being shot into clouds and aircraft activity.
There’s no indication Mr Deutsch has any meteorology qualifications. At the 39 sec mark of the video he states: “I’m a curious character and I like to know science-y things”. At the 2 min 10 sec mark Mr Deutsch states that he is “two classes, that are electives, away from having a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Engineering and Technologies”.
At the 6 min 32 sec mark Mr Deutsch shares on screen a document titled “The Paris Agreement and Climate Geoengineering Governance” that he says is “the governance document … from the Paris Accord, this is from October, 2016”. At the 7 min 6 sec mark he says “this is a United Nations document, CGI paperwork, they do summaries of United Nations documents, put ’em online”. He says at the 7 min 29 sec mark that the document is “not just the smoking gun this is a guide to how to geoengineer a planet”. However the document Mr Deutsch shares is in fact a paper from a Canadian independent thinktank, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), not the United Nations. The executive summary of the paper states that it discusses “protecting human rights in the context of climate change response measures”. The response measures examined are categorised as “climate geoengineering” – defined as manipulating the environment through “technological options in order to counteract the manifestations of climate change”.
“The paper refers to climate geoengineering as “a potentially mainstream policy option” on page 4. It then discusses a number of geoengineering technologies being researched for their ability to reduce climate change effects.”
There has been research into using it to alleviate droughts in the United States, studies into measuring its effectiveness and efforts to increase funding for cloud seeding. There is evidence it can boost snowfall.
However, Steven Siems, a professor at the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University, says there’s no chance it can cause a massive weather event like the Australian floods.
He told AAP FactCheck the flooding across southeast Queensland and northern NSW was remarkable.
“But it had NOTHING to do with cloud seeding,” he said in an email.
Michael Manton, an emeritus professor at Monash’s School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment, agrees. He says there’s “no way” cloud seeding could produce the flooding.
“Those storms are acting on much larger scales than any cloud seeding activity. Moreover the natural rain-producing processes are clearly operating very effectively,” he told AAP FactCheck in an email
Prof Siems says cloud seeding only works under “very specific conditions”.
“We have confidence that glaciogenic cloud seeding, like what Snowy Hydro undertakes during the winter season, can actually enhance precipitation. We have no compelling evidence that other forms of cloud seeding actually work.”
Prof Manton said cloud seeding “can be effective when the natural processes to form rain are not operating to full capacity”.
“Cloud seeding can then squeeze a little (but valuable) extra rain from those clouds.”
Some online posts also reference a 2008 press release announcing a Queensland cloud seeding research project, including some that omit the original date and make it seem the project is current, rather than ending more than a decade ago.
The results of that study, published in 2010, concluded seeding might not have much of a positive effect on increasing rainfall.
Another video clip recently being shared is of a 7News presenter discussing “strange echoes on the weather radar” and speculating that it could be airplane chaff is actually from September 2021 and has nothing to do with the current weather.
So what actually caused the extreme weather?
The Pacific Ocean is experiencing a La Nina climate period, a weather pattern that pushes warm water westward. In Australia, that means an increased likelihood of cyclones and above-average rainfall.
Meteorologist and TV weather presenter Livio Rigano told AAP FactCheck the recent rain events were “not uncommon in summer, especially late summer”.
“What made it different is that the mechanism that caused the rain sat in one place for a very long time, much longer than it usually would,” he said in an email
Prof Manton also said the weather systems were not unusual, “but their intensity and duration are”.
Mr Rigano said a high pressure system over the Tasman Sea blocked the usual west-to-east movement of the system over Queensland, “so the intense rainfall that normally would only last about a few hours lasted about three days”.
“We always look for reasons to explain weather events but there is a certain amount of randomness in the atmosphere that you can’t escape. Part of it was just bad luck – the thing just happened to park itself on top of (southeast) Queensland.”
Recent heavy rainfall and flooding across NSW and Queensland was not man-made. While cloud seeding technology can be effective in specific, localised situations, experts say there’s no evidence it can manipulate the weather on a massive scale. They told AAP FactCheck a La Nina weather system caused the above-average rainfall.
False – The claim is inaccurate.
By Nik Dirga
Turnbull pumps $10m into rainmaking gamble
Few MPs would have worked harder to defend their seats at this election than Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose blue ribbon Sydney seat of Wentworth is under siege not just from Labor but a range of environmental activists, mostly coalescing around the Greens.
But in the second week of the campaign, Mr Turnbull found the time to announce that the Government, already in caretaker mode, would bankroll to the tune of $10 million the investigation of an untried Russian technology that aims to trigger rainfall from the atmosphere, even when there are no clouds.
It is a decision that raised the eyebrows of water experts around the country.
Mr Turnbull's office says there was no breach of caretaker protocol because the project was actually approved before the election was announced.
The money bankrolls research into a mysterious ionisation technology promoted by the Australian Rain Corporation.
And a commercial trial by a wastewater centre at Queensland University left independent experts like Emeritus Professor Neville Fletcher of the Australian National University a little unconvinced.
"I think the conclusion was, and I might even quote that it said: 'There is no evidence to show that the technology does not work'," Professor Fletcher told The 7.30 Report.
"Now that's a little bit negative. So I don't know. I thought that that was - inconclusive is about where I'd put it."
Rainmaker Ian Searle, the father of cloud seeding in Australia for the Tasmanian Hydro scheme, has also expressed doubts, as has Israel's internationally respected cloud physicist Professor Daniel Rosenfeld.
"There is no single scientific paper, only the patent, and one can patent anything claiming it's to do anything that he likes, as long as no one else has made the same claims before," Professor Rosenfeld said.
Mr Searle says all the literature he has seen on the technology shows it to be a bogus science.
"The one that is being touted at the moment sounds very similar to a group in the USA called the Cloudbusters, and they're supposed to ionise the atmosphere in order to make clouds out of blue skies and then to produce rain from those clouds," he said.
Electrification of the ionosphere to create clouds out of thin air. Certainly sounds a lot like the secret Australian rain device - no photographs allowed - that so excited the Minister and those who will share his six-month $10 million research funding.
All for a company the minister says is Australian-owned. Although the 7.30 Report found it is actually 75 per cent Swiss-owned.
Requests for interviews with Mr Turnbull, the head of the Australian Rain Corporation, the head of the centre contracted to test the device were declined.
So, too, the head of the National Water Commission, which insisted on a presentation of the technology for local physicists.
The Rain Corporation presented research documents written in Russian, explained by a Russian researcher who spoke to local experts in Russian.
"It's kind of difficult, because he didn't speak English or understand English, so we didn't get a lot of information there, and as I said, such written information as they had was all in Russian. So couldn't get anything out of that," Professor Fletcher said.
The physicists recommended more scientific work be done at no great expense before proceeding with any trial, which may then be worthwhile, they said.
But Mr Turnbull decided the trial should proceed and authorised a $10 million payment.
Mr Searle says he is astonished the National Water Commission allowed it to pass.
It's true that in the largely blue ribbon seat of Wentworth in Sydney's east, Mr Turnbull is struggling for re-election, though struggling might not be the right word. He does have a distinct advantage.
Emanating from affluent suburbs like Vaucluse, Rose Bay and Watson's Bay, Malcolm Turnbull's fundraising group the Wentworth Forum, includes a long list of generous donors including Frank Lowy, Ros Packer, John Simons, and Matt Handbury, chairman and part-owner of the so-called Australian Rain Corporation, beneficiary of the Minister's funding.
Businessman Geoffrey Cousins says he has never seen the weight of spending in any one seat that Mr Turnbull is putting out in Wentworth.
"It must be well over $1 million just in this one seat, and in Australia, that's an extraordinary amount of money. I mean, it's starting to get like the American elections," he said.
Mr Handbury is the wealthy nephew of Rupert Murdoch and chairman and proprietor of Murdoch Books, which is the headquarters for Australian Rain Corporation.
The 7.30 Report put to Malcolm Turnbull the following questions: has Matt Handbury's contribution to your fundraising Wentworth Forum helped in securing funding for the Australian Rain Corporation?
"There is absolutely no connection," he said "That is an outrageous suggestion".
Secondly, why couldn't the Matt Handbury Swiss consortium pay for its own research?
Response: "The company is contributing funding to the research and trial."
Our final question to the Minister was why should this not be seen as securing funding for one of your electorate supporters ahead of an election the Government is tipped to lose?
Mr Turnbull did not directly answer this question, suggesting perhaps his first answer had.
"The Australian Government is open to new and innovative approaches to secure water," he said.
Doubts on cloud seeding
Previously Mr Turnbull was dubious about the practice of rain enhancement by aerial seeding clouds with salt particles to help rain drops form.
In a six-year $20 million State Government trial, 20 per cent federally funded, the Snowy Hydro Scheme has been experimenting with cloud-seeding burners mounted on mountain tops.
Cloud seeding is regarded as an effective method for increasing snowfall, but Mr Turnbull's March press release raised doubts, stating:
"Cloud seeding is effective only in a limited number of weather conditions... It requires existing clouds. It will not produce rain out of thin air... An American research institute concluded there was no conclusive scientific proof that cloud seeding works."
Mr Searle disagrees.
"In Tasmania the results have been highly favourable from the beginning. We've been going since 1964," he said.
A respected world expert on cloud physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Professor Rosenfeld believes pollution particles are inhibiting rainfall over Australia's most populated areas and beyond.
More specialised cloud seeding could help, he says, if only it could win the support of Australia's Environment Minister, who the Israeli says has instead directed scarce funding from the Australian water fund to Mr Handbury's corporation.
The local representative of the Israeli cloud seeding project in Australia is Aron Gingis.
"When I brought it to the attention of Ken Matthews, chief executive officer of National Water Commission, well, if you're giving this company this kind of serious money, why couldn't we apply?" he said.
"And then he suggested clearly to me that, 'Look, it's no point applying because Australian water fund had been expended'.
"In other words, the money had been spent. So when I argue with him - not argued but suggested to him, well, if the money was spent, where did you find this $11 million?
"And he suggested to me clearly that this money was especially allocated to the National Water Commission by Minister Turnbull, a special allocation for this specific project. And to me it sounds, you know, bewildering."
He said $11 million could produce a lot of rain through cloud seeding.
"You could say that his decision wasn't influenced by the association of Matt Handbury with Wentworth Forum, I don't believe it. It's my opinion," he said.
There is a lot riding on this $10 million bet by Mr Turnbull.
If he can silence the sceptics and make it rain, even when there are no clouds on the horizon, he will be hailed as a visionary and a hero.
If it is found the sceptics are right and this technology does not work, the thunder will reverberate across the country.
"If he claims that the conventional method is unproven technology, so much more so he should be very careful with the really baseless technology," Professor Rosenfeld said.
"Frankly, I was astonished to go for something that is quite unproven, quite untried, and you could do wonderful things with that money," Mr Searle said.
By Greg Hoy
Scientists are zapping clouds with electricity to make it rain in drought-stricken countries
With a harsh, desert climate and an average rainfall of just 10 cm a year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) needs more freshwater.
In search of a solution, it has been funding science projects from around the world to try to make it rain.
One of these projects involves using catapults to launch small unmanned aircraft which zap clouds with an electric charge.
A team of scientists from the University of Reading, in the UK, initially proposed the idea in 2017.
Now, the custom-built drones will soon begin tests near Dubai.
The idea is that charging droplets in clouds will make them more likely to fall as rain.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about what charge might do to cloud droplets, but there’s been very little practical and detailed investigation,” says Keri Nicoll, one of the core investigators on the project.
The aim is to determine if the technology can increase rainfall rates in water-stressed regions.
Nicoll’s team started by modelling the behaviour of clouds. They found that when cloud droplets have a positive or negative electrical charge, the smaller droplets are more likely to merge and grow to become big raindrops.
The size of the raindrops is important, says Nicoll, because in places like the UAE which has high clouds and high temperatures, droplets often evaporate as they fall.
“What we are trying to do is to make the droplets inside the clouds big enough so that when they fall out of the cloud, they survive down to the surface,” says Nicoll.
The proposal was chosen to receive a AU$1.9 million grant distributed over three years by the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, an initiative run by the National Center of Meteorology.
To test out the model, Nicoll and her team built four aircraft with a wingspan of two metres. These are launched from a catapult, have a full autopilot system, and can fly for around 40 minutes.
Each aircraft has sensors for measuring temperature, charge, and humidity, as well as charge emitters - the part that does the zapping - that were developed with the University of Bath in the UK.
So far, testing has been conducted in the UK and Finland, and ground-based measurements of cloud properties taken in the UAE.
The research has been published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology.
Because the pandemic meant Nicoll’s team couldn’t travel to the UAE, they have trained operators from a flight school in Dubai to use their aircraft. They’re now waiting for the right weather conditions to complete the tests.
As climate change alters weather patterns, causing severe droughts in some places and floods in others, there is a growing interest in how to control the weather.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, two thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages by 2025.
While the University of Reading project is coming to an end this year, Nicoll wants future projects to combine charging clouds with cloud seeding -- an existing weather modification technique where drones inject particles of silver iodide or salt into clouds to encourage them to rain or snow.
Nicoll says using charged salt particles could make cloud seeding more efficient.
Alya Al Mazroui, director of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, says the organisation is already experimenting with cloud seeding.
“An increasing number of countries have invested in weather modification research and applications, particularly those in arid regions such as the UAE,” she says.
The UAE conducted 242 cloud seeding missions in 2017, according to the US National Centre of Meteorology.
In 2018, Al Mazroui told CNN that rain enhancement could offer a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to water security than alternatives like desalination, where salt is removed from seawater.
Other countries that have heavily invested in cloud seeding include the US and China.
The latter announced last December that it would expand its weather modification program to cover an area of over 5.5 million square kilometres.
While cloud seeding as a concept has been around for decades, there has been little research showing its effectiveness.
One study funded by the US National Science Foundation in early 2020 found that seeding with silver iodide could increase snowfall.
But there are questions over whether seeding clouds in one location might take rain away from another location, and the long-term environmental impacts of silver iodide. The process is also very expensive.
“There’s still a long way to go to definitively see how effective cloud seeding weather modification is at enhancing rainfall,” says Nicoll.
But we may soon be one step closer to finding out how effective cloud zapping can be.
Scientists Are Tinkering With Clouds to Save the Great Barrier Reef
Super-reflective clouds could shelter coral from scorching sunlight. But environmentalists are concerned that such plans could prolong our addiction to fossil fuels.
It’s a sweltering summer in Australia, and the corals on the Great Barrier Reef are showing early signs of stress. The authority that manages the largest coral reef system in the world is expecting another bleaching event in the coming weeks—if that happens, it will be the sixth time since 1998 that spikes in water temperatures wipe out swathes of corals that are home to countless marine animals. Three of these bleaching events, which make corals more susceptible to disease and death, have happened in the last six years alone. When corals experience extreme and prolonged heat stress, they expel the algae living in their tissues and turn completely white. This can have devastating impacts on the thousands of fish, crabs and other marine species that rely on the reefs for refuge and food. To slow the rate at which ocean warming is bleaching the coral, some scientists are looking to the skies for a solution. Specifically, they’re looking at clouds.
Clouds bring more than just rain or snow. During the day, like massive parasols, clouds reflect some of the sunlight away from the Earth and back into space. Marine stratocumulus clouds are particularly important: they lie at low altitudes, are thick and cover about 20 percent of the tropical ocean area, cooling the water beneath. This is why scientists are exploring whether their physical properties could be altered to block even more sunlight. On the Great Barrier Reef, the hope is to provide some much-needed relief to coral colonies during increasingly frequent heat waves. But there are also projects aimed at global cooling that are more controversial.
The idea behind the concept is simple: Large amounts of aerosols would be sprayed into the clouds above the ocean in order to increase their reflectivity. Scientists have known for decades that the particles in the polluting tracks left by ships, which look much like the contrails seen behind planes, can brighten existing clouds. That’s because these particles create a seed for cloud droplets; and the more numerous and smaller the cloud droplets, the whiter and better the clouds are at reflecting sunlight before it hits—and heats—the Earth.
Of course, shooting pollutant aerosols into clouds is not a suitable technological fix to global warming. The late British physicist John Latham had already proposed in 1990 to use salt crystals from evaporated seawater instead. Seawater is plentiful, benign and above all free. His colleague Stephen Salter, emeritus professor of engineering design at the University of Edinburgh, then suggested deploying a fleet of some 1,500 remote-controlled ships that would sail the ocean, suck up water and spray a fine mist into clouds to make them brighter.
As greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise, so did interest in Latham and Salter’s unusual proposal. Since 2006, the pair have been collaborating with around 20 experts from the University of Washington, the Palo Alto Research Center and other institutions as part of the Marine Cloud Brightening Project (MCBP). The project group is now researching whether the deliberate addition of sea salt to the low, puffy stratocumulus clouds over the ocean would have a cooling effect on the planet.
Clouds off the west coasts of North America, South America and central to southern Africa appear to be particularly amenable to brightening, according to Sarah Doherty, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who has been managing the MCBP since 2018. Cloud droplets do form naturally over the ocean when moisture gathers around salt particles, but adding just a little more salt to them could increase the clouds’ reflecting power. Brighten the large sheets of clouds over those amenable regions by as little as five percent, says Doherty, and much of the globe could be cooled. At least this’s what computer simulations suggest.
“Field studies where we spray sea salt particles into clouds at a very small scale would allow for deeper insights to key physical processes and therefore to improve models,” she says. Small-scale experiments with prototype equipment were meant to start as early as 2016 at a site near Monterey Bay, California, but they have been postponed due to lack of funding and public opposition over the experiment’s possible environmental impact.
“We would not be directly testing marine cloud brightening at any scale that would affect climate,” says Doherty. Critics, including environmentalist organizations and advocacy groups such as the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative, however, fear that even small experiments could inadvertently affect the global climate due to its complex nature. “The idea that you could just do this on a regional scale and very limited scale, is pretty much a fallacy because the atmosphere and ocean are importing heat from other places all the time,” says Ray Pierrehumbert, professor of physics at the University of Oxford.
There are also technical challenges. Developing a sprayer that can reliably brighten clouds is no easy feat, because seawater tends to clog up as salt builds up. To solve this challenge, the MCBP has enlisted the help of Armand Neukermans—the inventor of the earliest inkjet printers, who worked at Hewlett-Packard and Xerox until his retirement. With financial backing from Bill Gates and a group of other tech industry veterans, Neukermans is now designing nozzles that will spray just the right size (120 to 400 nanometers in diameter) of saltwater droplets into the atmosphere.
As the MCBP group prepares for outdoor testing, a team of Australian scientists has adapted an early prototype of MCBP’s nozzles and tested it over the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has experienced warming of 1.4°C since 1910, more than the global average of 1.1°C, and the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals due to ocean warming.
Cloud brightening can offer some support for the reefs and their residents. To achieve that, engineering oceanographer Daniel Harrison from Southern Cross University and his team fitted a research vessel with a turbine to pump water out of the ocean. The turbine, which resembles a snow cannon, refines water and, through its 320 nozzles, sprays trillions of tiny droplets high into the air. The water droplets dry in the air, leaving behind a salty brine, which in theory would mix with the low-altitude stratocumulus clouds.
The team’s proof-of-concept experiments in March 2020 and 2021—at the end of the Australian summer, when corals are most at risk of bleaching—were too small to significantly alter the clouds. Harrison was nevertheless surprised at how quickly the salty plume drifted skywards. His team flew drones equipped with lidar instruments up to 500 metres high to map the movement of the plume. This year, an aircraft will cover the remaining meters in altitude to assess any response in the clouds beyond the 500-meter mark.
The team will also use air samplers on a second research vessel, and weather stations on the reefs and on shore to study how particles and clouds mix naturally in order to improve their models. “Then we can start to look at how cloud brightening, if it was done on a larger scale, could potentially impact the ocean in desirable as well as potentially unexpected ways,” Harrison says.
Cutting light over the reef by about six percent would equate to a 0.6°C temperature reduction in the mid-shelf reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, according to modelling done by Harrison’s team. Harrison says that scaling the technology to cover all the reefs (the Great Barrier Reef is made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and spans 2,300km) would be a logistical challenge, as it would require around 800 spray stations operating for months ahead of expected heat waves. The Great Barrier Reef is so large it can be seen from space, but it only covers 0.07 percent of Earth’s surface.
Harrison acknowledges that this new approach has potential risks that need to be better understood. Cloud brightening could break up clouds or change local weather and rainfall patterns, which is also a major concern with cloud seeding. This is a technique that involves aircraft or drones adding an electrical charge or chemicals such as silver iodide to clouds, in order to create rainfall. The United Arab Emirates and China have experimented with the technique to tackle heat or air pollution. But such measures are hugely controversial—and many consider them downright dangerous.Cloud seeding and brightening both fall under so-called “geoengineering” interventions. which critics consider too risky or a distraction from emissions reductions.
In 2015, the physicist Pierrehumbert co-authored the US National Research Council’s report on climate interventions and warned of political and governance issues. But a new report by the academy, published in March 2021, takes a more supportive stance on geoengineering and advises that the US government invest $200 million in research. Pierrehumbert welcomes research into marine cloud brightening but finds it problematic that spraying equipment is being developed as part of the ongoing research projects. The technology could get out of hand, he says. “The scientists who say that this is not a substitute for emissions control, they're not going to be the ones making the decisions.”
The Australian government, which has been heavily criticized for its inaction in response to the climate crisis and its reliance on coal-fired power, sees potential in marine cloud brightening. In April 2020 it launched a $300 million program in April 2020 to restore the Great Barrier Reef—this pot of money funds research, technological development and testing of more than 30 interventions, including marine cloud brightening. Despite substantial investment measures such as cloud brightening remain controversial. Environmental groups argue that it could carry ecological risks and be a distraction from efforts to limit greenhouse gases.
But even if cloud brightening proves effective, Harrison doesn’t think it will be a long-term solution for saving the Great Barrier Reef. “There's only a limited amount of cooling that you can get from cloud brightening,” he says—and as the climate crisis likely worsens, any effects of brightening will quickly be overcome. Rather, Harrison argues, the aim is to buy time while countries bring emissions down. “It's too late now to hope that we're going to be able to reduce our emissions quickly enough to save the reef without any intervention.”
Insolvency rates slated to spike within flood-impacted NSW, QLD
The number of businesses unable to repay their debts is expected to surge by over one-third over the next 12 months.
The prediction – which is derived from CreditorWatch’s Business Risk Index for April – noted that for businesses located within the Richmond Valley hinterland, namely around the Northern Rivers city of Lismore, insolvency rates are tipped to explode by 36 per cent.
Earlier this year, intense rainfall saw the flood levee at Lismore’s Wilson River almost reach 12 metres (11.4 metres), a near-record level, alongside the 14-metre mark reached in February, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
The housing impact alone of these floods across NSW and Queensland is expected to be felt by the thousands.
Last month, NSW Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Victor Dominello, said that over 10,000 homes across NSW, including the Northern Rivers, had been assessed as damaged, and that more than 4,000 had been assessed as uninhabitable.
According to the report, insolvency rates across the southern Brisbane suburbs of Rocklea and Acacia Ridge – also impacted by flooding – are also speculated to grow by 14.5 per cent over the same 12-month period.
Further, the Queensland regions of Gympie and Maryborough forecast to report marginal lifts of 0.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent each.
However, while these rates markED a significant development for defaults in the region, the impact of these floods on loan repayments has been expected by some industry figures.
Lendi Group chief executive of distribution Brad Cramb noted earlier this year on LinkedIn that insurance cover is “not offered for floods” in the Northern Rivers region, “leaving the cost of rebuilding solely on small business owners.”
Speaking to The Adviser earlier this year, Lennox Head-based broker Zain Peart said that these communities would be under immense strain following the floods, noting the lack of builders required to complete the necessary construction.
He suggested that “defaults will absolutely increase”.
“All of West Ballina, water might have only gone in half a metre, but you still have to rip up everything… it trips the power board... you got to rip out the walls... you’ve got to replace everything... just that little damage is a minimum six months to get back,” he told The Adviser at the time.
“I had one client call up and was pretty much crying, saying: ‘I’m never going back to my house again’.
“She’s hoping that she’ll get the insurance payout and maybe enough to clear the loan and will just leave it and [won’t] go back.
“It’s pretty horrible.”
By Sam Nichols