This story begins with my first full-time job after graduating from San Jose State College. I was hired as a weather forecaster by E. G. & G., Inc., in Durango, Colorado in support of a massive randomized cloud seeding experiment called the Colorado River Basin Pilot Project (CRBPP). It was intended to prove that seeding wintertime mountain storms was a viable way of adding water to western rivers over a large area. I was to work under lead forecaster, J. Owen Rhea, an expert on wintertime mountain storm forecasting. Paul Willis was the Project Manager. The project was intended to replicate stunning cloud seeding successes reported in Colorado by Colorado State University (CSU) scientists, but in the CRBPP, over a much larger area than in the CSU experiments.
The Durango job was to change my life forever, and eventually lead me to Israel as a skeptic of reports of cloud seeding successes. Ironically, that change was to involve North American Weather Consultants, and it’s president, Mr. Robert D. Elliott, for whom I had worked in 1968 in Goleta, CA, as a summer hire between semesters at San Jose State, and again when on loan from the CRBPP in the summer of 1972 in statewide cloud seeding program in South Dakota.
By time the Colorado River Basin Project (CRBPP), the nation’s largest, most costly ever mountain randomized cloud seeding experiment ended after five winter seasons, I had become an orographic cloud seeding “apostate. ”
What caused this epiphany?
This metamorphosis from an idealistic and naive forecaster coming right out of college happened due to seeing what I think most scientists would term “misconduct” in the journal literature during the CRBPP in 1974 combined with misleading news releases from the BuRec sponsor of the CRBPP. In the journal article, the two authors were asserting things they knew weren’t true. I personally knew that they knew this. I decided that I was going to do something about this deplorable situation after the CRBPP ended.
I then had come to believe that the cloud seeding successes reported by CSU researchers couldn’t possibly have been real ones due to the many seeding impediments that turned up during the CRBPP (clouds not ripe for seeding as had been described, inversions that blocked the seeding material in the wintertime, cloud tops not at the heights they were supposed to be, etc.)
It was very troubling to me that the many published scientists that were associated with the CRBPP and knew that false claims had been published in the 1974 journal cloud seeding paper did nothing. In that 1974 paper, for example, one reads that the temperature at 490 mb in the atmosphere (about 18,000 feet above sea level) above Wolf Creek Pass, a central target of the CRBPP, was representative of cloud top temperatures during storms. Both authors, due to the hundreds of rawinsondes launched during CRBPP storms, knew this was untrue. Robert D. Elliott was one of the two authors.
I waited years for a correction by the authors, or a journal “Comment” by a knowledgeable, published scientist pointing out that at least this one claim in that article was untrue. The silence on the part of those many scientists I expected to do SOMETHING was deafening. I, too, was part of that “silence.”
Talk Sounds of Silence slide: a pptx that after hours of investigation I am not able to insert, thanks to changes in WP. It downloads and then you can play the slide. In the meantime, this poor substitute for the real thing:
The false claim/misconduct I am referring to appeared in one of the most cited cloud seeding articles of all time, entitled, “The Cloud Seeding Temperature Window.”
Robert D. Elliott, one of the two authors of that 1974 paper was intimate with the CRBPP data as the official evaluator of the CRBPP. That CRBPP data demonstrated that the claim in his paper that cloud top temperatures over Wolf Creek Pass averaged 490 mb was false. In his next visit to Durango I asked him, “How could you write that (claim)?” He replied that he had, “just sort of gone along with Lew” (Lewis O. Grant) his co-author.
I thought of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the little kid that said to him, “Tell me it ain’t so, Joe!”, that he had cheated in the Black Sox World Series scandal. I felt just like that little kid must have. This was the same Bob Elliott that I had worked for in Goleta and admired so much.
So, that was the epiphany for me. I then thought that nothing might be true in the cloud seeding literature no matter how highly regarded that literature or experiment was by the scientific community.
I had come into CRBPP a little too naïve and idealistic, and when the CRBPP ended, that idealism was nearly gone and replaced by suspicion of any orographic cloud seeding success unless I had personally validated it. Over the next two decades, I was to reanalyze six prior cloud seeding successes in the peer-reviewed literature and not ONE was the success it was deemed to be by the experimenters who conducted it.
This ephiphany set the stage for what was to happen a few years later concerning the scientist in Israel whose work in clouds and cloud seeding Prof. Joanne Malkus Simpson admired so much.
After the CRBPP had ended, I was asked to do an interview about it in November 1975 in the local newspaper, the Durango Herald. In that interview, I stated exactly what I planned to do; reanalyze all the Colorado State University cloud seeding work that had led to the massive funding of the CRBPP since I now deemed that literature highly unreliable.
After living the winter of 1975-76 in Durango, living off my savings while gathering runoff and CRBPP precipitation data, I was hired for a May-August seeding project in South Dakota by Atmospherics, Inc. I had worked for them in the summer and fall of 1975 as a radar meteorologist in Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India. While mountain cloud seeding was suspect, Joanne Malkus Simpson and co-authors were published results of successful cloud seeding of tropical Cumulus clouds like those in India. That’s why I had no qualms about taking that job in India in 1975, Joanne had influenced me again.
Near the end of the 1976 project in SD, I was interviewed for a job at the University of Washington by Prof. Larry Radke and Prof. Peter V. Hobbs. I joined Prof. Hobbs, Cloud Physics Group, as it was known then, in September 1976.
After unraveling bogus cloud seeding successes in Washington State (Hobbs and Rangno 19781 and in Colorado (Rangno 1979, Hobbs and Rangno 19791), Prof. Peter V. Hobbs who saw I had an interest and skill in examining the cloud seeding literature, said to me that “if you really wanted to have an impact, you should look into the Israeli experiments.” It wasn’t long before I began reading critically about them.
1Authorship sequences in Prof. Hobbs group, as in these cases, do not reflect who initiated the work, carried out the analyses and wrote the drafts that Prof. Hobbs improved with his great editing skills.