Hail to the storm fighters - Macleans.ca

Hail to the storm fighters

Fargo, N.D.’s Weather Modification Inc. sent “cloud seeding” planes into the skies to try to reduce the size of the hailstones set to slam the city



Calgary was pummelled on July 12 by hail the size of golf balls. Bad as it was, some say it could have been worse. Earlier that day, Fargo, N.D.’s Weather Modification Inc. sent “cloud seeding” planes into the skies to try to reduce the size of the hailstones set to slam the city; it sits on the northern periphery of North America’s “hail alley.”

Some scientists believe that when silver iodide is shot into clouds, moisture will fuse around the seed; this encourages rain and hail to fall at a point, says Weather Modification field manager Tom Walton, when hailstones are “pea-sized”—before they can take out windshields and dent car hoods. “It’s hail reduction,” says Walton—“not hail elimination.” Beijing, more famously, used the process to stop rainfall during the 2008 Olympics by inducing rain outside the city. More than 40 countries have tried seeding clouds, mostly to make it rain.

In Alberta, four planes and three staff meteorologists scour a territory from High River to Rocky Mountain House; they run “24/7” from June to September, says Walton—“hail season.” The hail-busting program, unique to Canada, the company says, isn’t funded by taxpayers: a consortium of local insurance companies foots the bill. It hired Weather Modification in 1995, after a devastating hail storm caused $75 million in damages in Alberta. The service costs $2 million a year, says Walton; he figures it cuts losses to insurers by 45 per cent.

But hard data is tough to come by, and whether cloud seeding really works is hotly debated. The U.S. National Research Council has concluded that, although promising, there’s little evidence one way or the other. Still, disciples remain convinced. Alberta’s insurers have renewed the contract for 15 years running.


Hail to the storm fighters

  1. Wow, that's so interesting, it was a terrible storm and I had some damage, hard to believe that it could of being worst!

  2. God Bless the Canadians

  3. Was this technology applicable in encouraging snow fall during the olympics in Vancouver?

  4. I have been watching the clouds coming from the west towards Calgary. There are days that there isn't much of clouds at all but, the planes seed what little of clouds there are, causing storm clouds to form golf ball size hail to flooding rain. Since the cloud seeding started here in Calgary for this year, there has been more damage caused by hail and flooding.
    I do not believe that the cloud seeding really works as they say. Because why don't they seed clouds at night? Or is it that people are home and can protect their property more than during the day, when they're at work. Saturday August 7, 2010 at around 2:30pm they started seeding. There wasn't any real clouds to speak of but, the only clouds insight were very high white thin clouds. But around 5:30pm it was poring rain (rivers in the streets) in the north west of Calgary. There wasn't any reason to seed the clouds, other than to flood property and drive up insurance premiums because of insurance claims for flooding. Why do they seed clouds that do not need seeding in the first place?

    • Re: why don't they seed at night
      … because hail rarely forms at night in Calgary. It takes a good hot day to cause the right conditions for a hailstorm.

      I can't believe you seriously think there is a conspiracy here to _increase_ insurance claims. That would not work out in the insurers' favour. The goal of insurers is to widen the difference between premium coming in and claims going out. Given an increase in flooding, if you think the premium increase would outpace the claims going out then I think you're crazy.

      Now the part of the article debating whether cloud seeding actually works to reduce hail… now that is interesting. This one storm stands as a good example: they DID seed the clouds and they STILL had a record-setting hailstorm ($400M in claims). Maybe the insurers are just wasting their cash.

  5. Who gave them the right to spray these chemicals into my air and my sky? Silver iodide is poisonous plain and simple, and it has to come down somewhere eventually. Canada’s land is being poisoned daily with the tar sand projects, now the air is being poisoned as well. Not alot of hope for future generations a couple centuries from now.