I was disturbed last evening (Dec. 13th) by a piece on the California wildfires, and their cause during the venerable PBS news hour. As with so many cases when opinions differ, PBS usually interviews those with differing opinions.
Not so last night.
It would seem that issues in climate have been removed from debate and critique except in the more or less underground blog world; bad for the public and bad for science.
Differences of opinion should be addressed head on in the most public of places, not hidden as though they don’t exist!
So I feel those alternative opinions on the cause and frequency of Cal wildfires omitted in the PBS news hour should be exposed:
These opinions are contained in the Washington Times, a counterpoint newspaper to the liberal-oriented, Washington Post. (We need objective news so BAD!)
Perhaps the PBS producers should listen to the FTC statement on fraud, which reigns in advertisers statements that can mislead consumers. I post this FTC statement because this is what happened last night on PBS, IMO. If what they presented last night on wildfires was a “product”, in effect, one “harming consumers” due to not having proper warnings (balance), you would see the injury lawyers lining up:
“Certain elements undergird all deception cases. First, there must be a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer.” —FTC Policy Statement on Deception
Yep, that’s what happened in the PBS news hour last night. Shame on you, PBS. You can do better.
Disclaimer 1. Two of the scientists quoted in the Times article are friends and ones I greatly admire; they are first rate scientists with numerous peer-reviewed publications; Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington, and Roger Pielke, Sr., emeritus professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.
Disclaimer 2: The writer is firmly of the opinion that the world will be warmer in the future.
Disclaimer 3: I am corrupted in a sense about scientific literature published in polarized domains due to having seen hundreds of pages of peer-reviewed literature describing ersatz cloud seeding results. I have a fair body of literature published on those, in essence, “corrections.” The bogus published cloud seeding results led to an erroneous scientific consensus on cloud seeding skill in the 1970s and 1980s.
Why did that happen?
The experimenters responsible for those faulty results knew beforehand what they would find and made sure they found it (sound familiar?), and due to inadequate and/or “pal” peer-reviews that let faulty literature into peer-reviewed publications (also sounds familiar).
(Thanks to Mark Albright, I guess, to alerting me to that Washington Times article; I lost sleep over that and whether the Geminid meteor shower, peaking last night, would destroy the space station, killing all on board.)
I put up a new page on this blog (see top header for “pages”) for sciency types deeply interested in weather modification/cloud seeding, my main avocation “whilst” working in the met sector. Its a many “commented out” review of NAS03 (shorthand for the National Academy of Sciences tome, published in 2003, “Critical Issues in Weather Modification Research.” I also post it here for redundancy. This is what I have been doing lately instead of reporting to you on clouds and dust.
The original document as long, and with insertions and commentaries, well, now what’s here is over 170 pages. Only the weather mod technocrat among you will truly be interested. I found a couple of errors, and have done a little re-writing just now (April 4th).
Why this review is so late is explained, in fact, I tell “all” the good and the bad and delve into, oh, controversy. Its not in the usual style of this blog, of course, since its a highly technical review.
Some background, if you care
My first job in the cloud seeding domain was with North American Weather Consultants, Goleta, CA, one of the oldest cloud seeding companies in America. I was a student hire for the summer of 1968. I was coming off my Junior year at San Jose State. Robert D. Elliott was president and founder of NAWC, which he founded soon after Vincent Schaefer’s stunning dry ice experiments showed that you could cause snow to fall out of supercooled droplet clouds when you converted them to ice crystals. That precip-forming process is known as the Wegner-Bergeron-Findeisen process.
The remarkable event of that summer was that “Bob’s” friend, Tor Bergeron, (of the Wegner-Bergeron-Findeisen mechanism of rain formation) came one day to visit Bob and I got a photo taken with him! In case you would like to see me with one of the “Fathers of Rain”, Tor Bergeron , or Tor himself, here it is ( I laugh when I look at this; can pants be any tighter?):
I loved that job and the people there! Cloud seeding was so interesting, too! And I already about 20 years into my cloud-centric life, had chased thunderstorms in the southern Cal and Arizona deserts, and a hurricane in 1961, Carla, by then. I knew what ice was in the sky.
Things kinda went downhill for me in the cloud seeding arena not too long after that when I joined, as my first job out of college, the Colorado River Basin Pilot Project, a massive randomized cloud seeding experiment that was going to replicate stunning cloud seeding successes published by scientists at Colorado State University. Winter snowfall in the Rockies had been increased in certain situations by 50-100% in their own randomized experiments! And the CRBPP was going to target those situations in the random decisions.
I started out as Assistant Project Forecaster in the fall of 1970, and then after some early personnel shuffling, was booted up to “Acting Project Forecaster”, forecasting the weather EVERY day, and calling all the random decisions that first season! There was no “Assistant Forecaster” any longer. I loved it! Couldn’t wait to get to work!
If you don’t believe me that I forecast the weather for random draws in the massive Colorado River Basin Pilot Project cloud seeding experiment right out of college, then you’ll have to see this “documovie” in which I make a forecast, filmed in the late winter of 1971, and one that premiered in Durango, CO, in 1972 (not ’81 as this youtube site claims)1:
It was SO EXCITING being a part of this grand project! And who wouldn’t love Durango, Colorado?
But, it turned out that there were lots of problems with the Colorado experimenters hypotheses, and those problems weren’t getting outside of the BuRec and our group. The wider weather modification community, which so highly regarded the experimenters’ experiments so highly, remained ignorant of those problems.
Well, during the five years I worked on that project, moved back to “Assistant Project Forecaster” when the second one, Owen Rhea, left after one season and a new Project Manager brought in his own forecaster.
It was later in those five years in Durango with the CRBPP that I abandoned my original Master’s Thesis at San Jose State on southern Cal rainfall trends, and took on reanalyses of cloud seeding experiments, something that was to go on for the next 35 years or so as “non-funded work”; weekends, and evenings, mornings before the regular work day at the U of WA. I was even drafting my own figures in the manuscripts I produced!
I was consumed, as I have been lately, by the lack of reporting, and even false claims in a journal article relative to our CRBPP project in those Durango days, by authors who knew better. It was truly melodramatic, but I felt someone had to do something about this!
As a cloud watcher, one of the very main things missing from the experimenters’ claims, was the presence, for hours at a time, of thick, non-precipitating clouds, ripe for seeding, with tops > -23°C, very cold ones. Instead, the clouds impacting Durango and the surrounding mountains were full of ice, as any cloud watcher could see. There was no such cloud as the experimenters had inferred via statistical analyses.
Cloud seeding they wrote, had not INCREASED the intensity of snowfall in their experiments they reported, but must have made it fall from clouds that did snow naturally until seeded. The only evidence they had for the existence of such clouds was that it had snowed longer on seeded days than on control days.
Not only that, seeding had made them snow at exactly the same rate as natural snowfall. It was a huge red flag for a storm bias in their experiments, a “lucky draw” or “Type I Statistical Error” for the seeded days.
And that’s what had really happened, among many other pitfalls, as you will read in the linked “review” above.
In conclusion: you can do a lot over a LONG period when you’re worked up about something!
——————————– 1Yes, it was a cloud seeding experiment so important, so much optimism around, it had its own movie! And it had a score by local guitar master, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown!
Every once in a great while, we have days where fairly thick clouds do not produce even a sprinkle, even though their tops are a little below freezing, but not quite cold enough for natural ice to form. Yesterday was one of those days.
And it was a day you, a cloud maven junior member, could likely have done something about it: rented a small plane or helicopter capable of flying up to around 15,000 kft ASL, taking a bag of commercially available dry ice pellets, then drop them into the fattest, highest Cumulus tops you saw while nipping them in VFR flight mode, and, “violet!”, ice would have formed along the path of the falling dry ice pellets!
So what were the ingredients that made yesterday so special for a little renegade cloud seeding?
The clouds that did not rain were pretty thick for ones that didn’t rain naturally, maybe 5,000 to 6,000 thousand feet thick in their maximum “overshooting” tops, and temperatures at top were a little below freezing, but warmer than -10° C. At lower top temperatures ice would likely have formed naturally. Here’s the annotated TUS sounding from yesterday afternoon from IPS MeteoStar:
Here’s how it works: the dry ice pellets, themselves at -72° C, will chill the air it comes in contact with to -40° C, resulting in the formation of jillions of tiny ice crystals in each pellet’s wake, which are then spread over a wider region in the following minutes due to turbulence in the cloud. In essence, each pellet is creating a tiny, vertical “contrail” in that cloud, as least in those upper parts of the cloud below freezing. (Bases yesterday were a little above freezing, around 2° C, while the highest afternoon tops locally appeared to run between -5° and -10° in clouds that were forming in more haze and smoke than usual (wonder if you noticed that?) Haze and smoke tend to reduce droplet sizes, and in doing that, make it harder to form ice and rain, especially in marginal clouds for that, such as we had yesterday.
What happens next is that the “supercooled” water in the cloud evaporates around those crystals due to the dry ice bombardment, while the crystals take up that evaporated vapor. When the crystals get large enough, they may collide with some remaining cloud droplets, if there are any around. Usually all those crystals that have formed will not left too many droplets in their vicinity.
As the crystals grow in size, and because they are in such high concentrations, they will bump into one another and form clusters of ice crystals we call snowflakes. Cloud Maven Person has, along with Professor Doctor Lawrence F. Radke, the latter the “Flight Scientist” in those days with the University of Washington Huskies’ Cloud Physics Group1 in the late 1970s, made snowflakes the size of pie plates (fluffy light ones without a lot of water content) in Cumulus clouds like yesterday’s here.
IMO you would have created not something of much importance, but rather just an annoying sprinkle or very light shower for those out hiking, horseying around on their horses, biking the trails, on an otherwise perfect day for outdoor activities.
One of the problems, long known about in such seeding experiments as could have taken place yesterday, is that the cloudy air is moving THROUGH the cloud, exiting at the downwind location. That is, lower clouds in particular, move SLOWER than the air itself2.
So, you drop some dry ice in a nice turret, the air you dropped it is, along with that turret’s air, will be moving downwind and is going to go out into clear air eventually. So, if the crystals don’t stay in a turret and upward moving air, but goes out the side of the cloud or into “shelf clouds” like yesterday, those crystals/snowflakes aren’t going to grow much, and will remain “light and fluffy” even though they could be huge because they are like “powder snow” not a lot of water mass in them. When they melted at cloud base, they might end up being just drizzle-sized drop (less than 500 microns across) or very small raindrops. So, that’s why you would likely have gotten just a sprinkle or very light rain shower had you done some unlawful, renegade cloud seeding yesterday. Remember, just like when you hike in the State Land Trust areas, you need a permit to seed legally.
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While warm weather returns to AZ over the next week to12 days or so, there is now, and this goes with climo, a big trough that barges into all of the West Coast in two weeks.
When I say climo, I mean that there is a noticeable tendency for this to happen in mid-November in the longterm upper air records so that in some areas of California, for example, there is a modest increase in the chance of rain in mid-month over other times in the month. These kinds of things in weather are termed, “singularities” like the supposed, “January thaw” back East. This mid-November annual trough passage may be related to the increasing speed of the jet stream in the Pacific as winter approaches, something that changes the spacing between the troughs. Pure speculation.
But in any event, be on the lookout for a major change in weather here between the 17th and 20th of November. Something like this is starting to show up in the models.
——— 1Later renamed the Cloud and Aerosol Research Group.
2Something that was even noticed in small tradewind Cumulus in the Pacific in the 1950s by Joanne Malkus (later, Joanne Simpson) and her colleagues.
Also, I am also posting way below a new (!) not-previously-published. but rather rejected- by-important-scientists-a-long-time-ago-manuscript FYI!
Very exciting! (Hah!)
Its published now, though, isn’t it???!!!
Its about science and how it works, and how it has failed; examples given. I put it down toward the bottom of a normal blog because I am shy.
Clouds from a few days ago, August 26th, now that the “choke point” in uploading photos to Word Press has been, at least temporarily ameliorated.
Here’s the sequence as a great cloud bottom drifted toward us from Pusch Ridge on the afternoon of the 26th. If you saw this coming, you should have been clearing channels around the house for excessive water flow. I forgot to.
Unloaded 0.45 inches at this site. 1.69 inches up on there on ol’ lady Lemmon. We sure needed this dump! Below, one of the great cloud bottoms of our time, that of a Cumulus congestus cloud, filled, as we say here, with rainy portent (maybe hail, too):
Pedagogical or possibly, pedantic (boring) module
Update alert for the posting of new (!) not-published rejected items by this Arthur:
(the original title, submitted first in 1997), final rejection in 1999 (Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc.)
The reviewers, Harold O., Danny R., and someone named “Anonymous Reviewer B”, guessed as, “”B”, for “Bernie S.”
Those in the cloud seeding culture don’t need the names spelled out. Harold O. is part of the “old guard” cloud seeding culture, while Danny R. is part of the new cloud seeding guard, one that has gone on to be a science superstar since his early work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the leader of the Israeli cloud seeding experiments. He did some work there on the clouds of the Mediterranean and satellite interpretations of them (available in Hebrew only the last time I checked).
While Danny R was there during the time of the reporting of the benchmark Israeli 2 randomized experiment by the leader of the experiment (1976-1986) he himself was not involved in those (ultimately flawed) analyses. Later, he participated in the unraveling of the 2nd experiment with Israeli statistician, K. Ruben Gabriel in 1990, J. Appl. Meteor. Half of the 2nd experiment’s results had been previously omitted, an omission which produced an apparent, unambiguous “confirmatory” success of the Israeli 1 experiment, for the short of it.
The 1990 development in Israel, in essence a retraction of what everyone thought was an unambiguous cloud seeding success, plus the fall of the equally important, earlier benchmark randomized experiments in Colorado, at one time also claimed to have proved cloud seeding by the National Academy of Sciences (Malone et al 1973), were the primary reasons for composing the piece being posted today. You may also know that your very own Catalina “cloud-maven” was in Israel in 1986 for 11 weeks, in doubt of those “hard-to-rain” clouds that were being described by the leader of those experiments, resulting in “Rain from Clouds with Tops Warmer than -10° C in Israel”, (1988, Quart J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.). This was to some degree the first crack in those experiments. (Of course, I would say that!)
How could such glowing, but ultimately critically flawed journal papers appear ultimately involving hundreds of journal pages? What went wrong with peer reviews?
I attempt in this piece to describe in this piece how science is supposed to work, and these pretty amazing chapters of science in cloud seeding, and offered some possible solutions.
At one time, Prof. Peter V. Hobbs, named to write up a status piece on Clouds-Climate for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 2003 or so, was going to use the “rise and fall” of the Colorado and Israeli experiments in this piece I have just posted. He was going to demonstrate how we scientists can think we have proved something, but upon closer inspection, find that we have not proved at all!
Peter Hobbs was concerned that the then many unknowns about clouds were not being treated properly in climate models (being parameterized too crudely), and therefore those parameterizations of clouds in climate models could lead to erroneous conclusions concerning the amount of global warming that might be ahead.
In his take on this MS, and that “rise and fall” section in particular, Peter, who was not one to dole out compliments very often said of it, “This is pretty good.” Peter had not reviewed it beforehand.
Ultimately, Peter contracted pancreatic cancer and was unable to submit his status summary to the WMO.
I’ve added RViewpoint_10-24-06_submitted date Aug 31, 2006_final, something that’s been sitting around for years! Spent a lot of time writing it, but ultimately deemed it a hopeless task that it would be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteor. Soc. under then current leadership in the weather modification domain of that journal, and ultimately never bothered to submit it. I was sick of the conflict, for one thing. Haven’t read this piece in years, either, but just wanted to do SOMETHING with it so here it is on this blog.
A longer piece, “Cloud Seeding and the Journal Barriers to Faulty Claims: Closing the Gaps“, also worked on again in spare time at home, for about two years, with the final rejection in 1999 under pretty much the same Bulletin editorial leadership. In this MS, I had a chance to get in, but the specific reviewer whose demands the Editor said I had to meet, insisted that I indicate in the manuscript that the lead scientists in the faulty published reports I wrote about “did the best they could under the circumstances” in the two early benchmark experiments, those in Colorado and Israel. I knew from direct personal experience that wasn’t true; I couldn’t write such a bogus statement that might have made the difference in “getting in.” So two years of on and off effort went down the drain. Sometime soon I will add this second futile effort to the “not pubbed” list! I have a number of those….. It didn’t help either that the two leading scientists whose work I questioned were also the two most beloved scientists in this field.
As with all but one of these pubs (Hobbs and Rangno 1978) in the domain of weather modification, they were done at home, outside of grant funding work while I was at the University of Washington in the Cloud and Aerosol Research Group. And, as I sometimes alert audiences to, working at home on stuff year after year. thousands of hours involved, could be considered a “crackpot alert”. Well, I think of myself as a “good crackpot.” haha.
In the mid- -20s C, around -15 F. Height, about 21,000 feet above the ground here in Catalina. Hope you got that estimate of cloud height right.
Here’s what happened in the Cirrocumulus cloud layer in yesterday’s special day, a pretty rare one, after the jets flew through it:
Lessons to be learned from yesterday’s supercooled clouds and the aircraft interactions inside them:
Cloud seeding works! You CAN make a supercooled, non-precipitating cloud produce a little precipitation that would not otherwise have occurred.
But in those situations where the clouds, say, are topping the Catalinas, they are often quite thin, and whether there is an economically worthwhile amount of precip is not known. However, an experiment targeting those clouds would be the perfect “baseline” one in cloud seeding to establish how much we can wring out of non-precipitating clouds. Things become kind of a mess when even randomized seeding takes on already precipitating clouds.
“Overseeding”, as here in these clouds when aircraft produce prolific numbers of ice crystals in a small volume, it leads to tiny ice crystals with low fallspeeds. Sure, they fall out and leave a hole, but they virtually never reach the ground except in one a in billion cases when the very cold clouds are real low, practically on the ground.
The Wegener-Bergeron-Findeisen mechanism produces precipitation.
Alfred Wegener, 1911, and later Bergeron3 and Findeisen in the 1930s, came up with the hypothesis that adding ice to a supercooled cloud results in the growth of the ice crystal at the expense of the droplets. They’ll tend to evaporate while ice is being added to the crystal via deposition of water vapor that was once liquid. So, an awful lot, maybe most of the precipitation that falls on earth, involves “mixed phase” clouds. This process has also been called the “cold rain process.”
However, let us not forget the two other processes that produce precipitation, the all ice process (no liquid required–helps produce “powder snow”, and the all liquid process, where cloud drops collide and grow into raindrops–the biggest measured drops in the world (about 1 cm in diameter) have formed soley through this process. It is likely that most of the rain that falls in tropical locations like the Hawaiian Islands and in hurricanes is due to this process even when ice is present in the top part of storms.
Later, we had some Altocumulus castellanus clouds with virga as the moist level lowered, though they were long gone before they could provide us with a nice sunset:
Still looking for scattered very light showers in the vicinity tomorrow as a Mr. Troughy goes by.
1Through the oral history tradition I learned while viewing the Washington Husky meltdown2 at AZ stadium on Saturday from a Mr. Mark Albright that the Tucson weather balloon launch site has been moved from Davis-Monthan Airbase to the University of Arizona campus next to their weather department.
2Late in the proceedings, with about 2 min left and the Huskies starting a play, and in the lead, CM was visibly moved to jump up and say, “Don’t hand the ball off!”, as a gift to Arizona fumble occurred simultaneously. But, being bifurcated in his loyalties now that CM is in Arizona and not with the University of Washington, he had to be somewhat “glad” that the Cats maintained their somewhat suspect but great win-loss record.
Here we go…..some pretty, but also dull, photos, along with some novella-sized captions as mind wandered into the obtuse while writing them.
That’s about it. No use talking about the rain ahead again. Seems to be a couple chances between the 20th and the 30th.
1You can make a cloud snow a little by seeding it with dry ice or silver iodide. This has been shown since the earliest days of experiments. Below, to demonstrate this, an aircraft inadvertently “seeded” this Altocumulus cloud layer. However, whether the small amount that falls out from previously non-precipitating clouds is economically viable is not known. Increasing precipitation due to seeding when the clouds are already snowing/raining has not been satisfactorily proven. As prize-winning stat man, Jerzy Neyman, U of Cal Berkeley Golden Bears Stat Lab would tell you, you need a randomized experiment and followed by a second one that confirms the original results, with measurements made by those who have no idea what days are seeded and evaluations done by those who have no vested interest in cloud seeding. Wow there’s a lot of boring information here. Getting a little worked up here, too.
Yesterday afternoon and evening were remarkably similar to the day before; great, spectacular banks of brilliant white turrets with black bases approached from the northeast filled with rainy portent, but, as with that previous day, disappointed. Once again, those clouds tended to fade some as they much beyond the Catalina Mountains, southwestward across Catalina, Saddlebrooke, and Oro Valley. Even the rainfall here in Sutherland Heights, 0.08 inches, was almost identical to the day before!
While there were many similarities, one had to be hopeful looking at those clouds as they spread across the valley. They many more Cumulus turrets above them compared with the prior day, had not faded completely to flat stratiform clouds riding an outflow wind. In fact, if you noticed, as they encountered the warmer air to the west of us, ramped up into major storms around I-10 and farther west. They are still going strong, now, a little before 4 AM, approaching Puerto Peñasco/Rocky Point! (This is a peak time of day for rain in the Colorado River Valley, oddly, spanning Yuma to Needles since many of our evening storms here continue on to that area during the night.)
Models still have lots of rain in our future as tropical storms whiz by in the Pacific west of Baja over the next 5-10 days (models have, not surprisingly, backed off direct Arizona hits for now1). Still there’s plenty of time and water in the air to catch up on our normal summer rainfall. At 4.58 inches, we’re not terribly behind the six inches expected in July and August in Catalina, and with recent rains, the desert has rebounded in a satisfying green over the past couple of weeks.
Of course, it you were up early yesterday, you may have seen the lightning (LTG) to the south through southwest. We missed a nice complex of heavy rain that brought 1-2 inches in a couple of spots as it passed across Tucson and into the Avra Valley.
Your cloud day
U of AZ mod run from last evening’s 11 PM AST data indicates a day today like the past two: coupla small Cumulonimbus clouds on the Cat Mountains by mid-afternoon, then a line of big storms again sweep down from the higher mountains to the NE in the evening. Maybe today we’ll get that big rain finally. If nothing else, the skies will be spectacular and dramatic again.
1A peak just now at the 11 PM WRF-GFS run shows that the unusually strong tropical storm not so far offshore from San Diego has been resuscitated. Go here to see this exciting storm and all the rain we’re supposed be getting over the next two weeks. Getting pretty worked up about it again. 2Does seeding to reduce hail work? The evidence is mixed, and is not convincing to national panels or the American Meteorological Society. Still, that type of cloud seeding is carried out in many locations in the Canadian and US grain belts.
Still no rain in the two week model “headlights”…and believe me I look for it.
A science story
While we’re waiting for “weather”, I thought I would partially bore you with another science story.
I am supposed to be dead by now, well, within 5-10 years after 2003 due to the development of a rare disease called pseudomyxoma peritonei, resulting from a tumor called, mucinous cystadenoma. Actually, I feel so good today at 71 years of age, doing more weight at the gymnasium than I ever have in the past 16 years on some machines, I tell friends that it must be a pre-death “bloom.”
But back in August of 2003, I left work with an incredible gut pain and ended up in the ER at the University of Washington’s hospital, never having finished that afternoon cup of coffee. After a day or so of monitoring, the doc there, Mika Sinanen, “went in” with his team. It wasn’t presenting as a classic appendicitis. He found a tumor exiting the appendix. He had never seen this before, and didn’t know what it was.
Later, while in his office, the pathologist came back with the report on it. It was a “mucinous cystadenoma”, not cancerous. But SInanen wasn’t as excited as I thought he should be that it wasn’t cancer. He told me to meet with the University Hospital’s surgical oncologist.
A few days later I was informed by that oncologist that I would likely experience a series of abdominal operations over the coming years due to the development of the disease called, pseudomyxoma peritonei, in which a mucinous jelly like growth attaches to organs in the gut. There is no cure I was told; portions of the gut are removed, the doc said, until no more can be removed and you die of “blockage.” It didn’t sound good.
Keep in mind the date of this event, August 2003.
Now the science part.
In September of 2002 a farmer from west Texas was upset over a cloud seeding program his county was going to undertake and had decided to write to all of the universities having atmospheric science programs about the status of cloud seeding. Was it proven? And would it work in the summer clouds of west Texas?
He eventually reached me at the University of Washington. I had published critiques and reanalyses of cloud seeding experiments in peer-reviewed journals, usually with the Director of our Cloud and Aerosol Group, Peter V. Hobbs, as a co-author, over the preceeding 25 years. In the farmer’s note, he said that he had contacted over 130 universities, and that my name had come up often. I cherish that e-mail even today, an indication that your peers had noticed your work.
I should mention that all of this reananlysis work was self-initiated, and except for one paper, they were done off and on on my own time with no funding whatsoever over a period of about 25 years. I sometimes partially joke about this aspect in introductions of talks on this subject by describing all this self-funded work as a “crackpot alert”. But I was trying to be a good crackpot.
I sent this farmer the fairest objective one-page note on cloud seeding I could, one that I thought my peers would also agree with. Its our job as scientists, even if with think they are still faulty reports out there, we have to cite them until they are officially overturned. I wrote to the this farmer that cloud seeding had not been proven in those types of clouds (summer Cumulonimbus ones) in ways that we in the science community would find convincing. That is, proven through randomized experiments, double blind ones, and in which the results had been replicated. That’s the gold standard for all science. I did point out, as I must as a scientist, that there were “promising results” using hygroscopic methods of seeding of such clouds. That was about it.
Implementing a commercial cloud seeding project creates jobs (don’t forget, the author has participated in these), and it looks good for sponsoring organizations, like state and county governments, to try to do something about droughts. Makes constituents happy even if most academic scientists question such a practice absent proper evidence.
Within 24 h of sending that note, I received this e-mail from Texas:
“You will die in 11 months from a fast-growing tumor, you f…… rascal.”
It was pretty odd since it had a timeline, and that 11 months was odd, and I thought use of the word “rascal” didn’t fit the preceding expletive. Another expletive would have fit better. There was no way to connect this e-mail to the note I sent that farmer, but the timing made it clear it had something to do with it.
Well, EXACTLY 11 months after that note I was on my way to the hospital leaving a half a cup of coffee on my desk at the U of WA due to an odd tumor exiting my appendix. And, by golly, I WAS going to die, but in 5-10 years!
I will never forget that day the surgical oncologist at the U of Washington hospital told me that. The disease never showed.
I always wanted to write to that e-mail address from where the threat originated (a phony one) and say,
“Hah-hah (emulating “Nelson” on The Simpsons); it was a SLOW growing tumor!”
One final note.
Scientists don’t like it when you’re reanalyzing their work, naturally. The very first review I saw of my first paper reanalyzing a randomized cloud seeding experiment was so bad, and had a personal attack that I did not have the credentials to reanalyze that experiment1 it made a fellow, cartoon-drawing graduate student in our group, Tom Matejka, laugh. He then came up with the image below of how that reviewer must have seen me. His drawing was so perfect a depiction, I loved it. The paper, “A reanalysis of the Wolf Creek Pass cloud seeding experiment”, was the lead article in the May 1979 issue of the Journal of Applied Meteorology.
I have also included a photo of Tom, one of my favorite grad students passing through our Cloud and Aerosol Group at Washington. You can see the playfulness in his face.
1True, actually; I had no credentials in that domain at that time.