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Who'll Start the Rain? Photograph by Jay Dickman
In Kansas, clouds sometimes promise rain and fail to deliver—or produce crop-damaging hail. To coax moisture from the clouds, the Western Kansas Weather Modification Program sends out its planes. Wing-borne burners produce a silver iodide smoke, which rides updrafts into the sub-zero heart of certain storm clouds. At that altitude, the silver iodide particles provide nuclei around which cloud water can freeze. When they're heavy enough, the grains of ice fall—melting into rain on the way down. In theory, the strategy not only increases rainfall but also keeps moisture from being swept high into clouds and forming hail. "We have not been able to prove that seeding clouds increases rainfall here because we don't have enough data," says meteorologist Walter Geiger III, who manages the program. "But research elsewhere suggests this 'weather mod' system works."
Photo Fast Facts
Camera: Nikon F5 Film Type: Fujichrome Provia 100 Lens: 17-35mm Speed and F-Stop: 1/60 @ f/3.5
Weather Conditions: Turbulent skies Time of Day: Dusk Lighting Techniques: Available light Special Equipment or Comments: The clouds and sun provided a beautiful sight, and I wanted to add the odd dimension of the wing pod with the burner operating.