Cloud seeding along the Wasatch Front may boost snowfall 10 to 15 percent, but whether it leaves less precipitation in storm clouds that sweep toward southwest Wyoming is a concern to officials there.
Beginning in mid-November, North American Weather Consultants began operating 15 cloud seeding machines situated between Bountiful and Alpine as part of an $85,000 cloud seeding program paid for by Salt Lake City, the Department of Natural Resources and area ski resorts.The most recent figures from the National Weather Service show Wasatch Front mountains have 85 to 115 percent of average snowpack while the snowpack in the Uinta Mountains and in southwest Wyoming is 65 to 90 percent of normal.
Barry Saunders, associate director of the Division of Water Resources, said he met last week with county officials in the Uinta basin and met earlier in January with Rich County and Wyoming officials who are all concerned that cloud seeding along the Wasatch Front is drying up the clouds.
Saunders said their concern because of a lower than average snowpack is understandable. "Something bad happens to you and you want to be able to point the finger at somebody rather than Mother Nature.
"This is a real common complaint, it's been raised ever since cloud seeding began, and as a consequence quite a lot of study has been devoted to try and either prove or disprove it," Saunders said.
The state studied the potential liabilities that could result from cloud seeding before it became part of the state's water development plans 15 years ago, Saunders said. "All of the evidence . . . is if there's a downwind effect at all, it's positive."
William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service Salt Lake office concurred that there is no scientific evidence cloud seeding means less precipitation downwind. Some reports indicate it actually boosts downwind precipitation. "It's a hard thing to prove either way."
A 1979 report on national weather modification made to the President and Congress concludes that "The very small changes in local weather caused by cloud seeding should have no affect on the forces driving the general atmospheric circulation and its associated weather system (elsewhere)."
If officials in northeastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming are looking for someone to blame for their below-average snowpack, "probably Mother Nature is the biggest blame," Alder said.