A review of a review of cloud seeding status

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).

A Critical  Review of the National Academy of Science’s 2003 “Critical Issues in Weather Modification Research”

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?):

Tor and me, summer 1968, at the headquarters of North American Weather Consultants.
Tor Bergeron and me, summer 1968, at the headquarters of North American Weather Consultants.  He was also very interested in and supportive of cloud seeding.  OK, this shot was meant to provide some humor, something often attempted here.

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:

Mountain Skywater!

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!

The End


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!



8 thoughts on “A review of a review of cloud seeding status”

  1. Well, it was the fashion of the time, I think, Roland. And, we know how silly past fashions can look. Remember when American professional basketball players wore mini-shorts? Wow, how awful was that?

    Of course, bell bottomed pants were beginning to be the “thing” back then,and apparently now, too. Who can forget Sonny and Cher and THOSE bell-bottomed pants?

  2. I remember watching old science documentaries like this in high school; mostly of stuff done during the 1957-58 geophysical year. The music in this one was much better and was in color!

    1. Glad you got some nostalgia out of that old movie, Mike. Its kind of fun seeing those big IBM tapes go round and round.
      In one scene, they show a cowboy mounting up on a horse to go light his cloud seeding generator. In fact, it was just a few feet away from his house! It was a pretty funny scene to those of us “in the know.”

      Glad, too, you liked the late Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s music.

      It was a fun, and yet stressful time.


  3. I’m looking forward to reading this post, but for now I will just say that it is great that you got a photo with the famous Tor B-. You two look to be on the same team.

    1. Hi, Jon,
      It was quite a moment. I had just taken a photo of all of the North American Weather Consultants group with Bergeron, which included Robert D. Elliott, Einar Hovind, and the rest, when I asked for a separate photo, one that I treasure for both my silly appearance and for Mr. T.

      Well, the commentary on NAS 2003 is quite a slog. Good luck getting through it! But, wait, there’s more!

      Will be posting something similar soon, a review of a review by “Bernie” in 2001, long time cloud seeding advocate. It was in the form of a “Comment” submitted to BAMS soon after BAS’ review, but, as readers here might guess, it was rejected without having gone out for review due to…..LENGTH! Its hard when you know so much to be succinct. hahaha, sort of.


      1. Comments and replies are more fun to read than regular articles. I’ve published about six or seven comments (almost as many as my regular articles), with only one being rejected (Science magazine) .

        I only had one comment to an article, one that Marcia Baker and I wrote. In it, we were accused of simultaneously stealing their idea and being wrong. So, we had fun with that reply.

        You had some good replies to comments about that BAMS review as I recall. I saved a copy. I look forward to seeing this rejected reply you mentioned.

        That was smart to ask for a separate photograph with Bergeron.

        1. How true that journal “Comments” and “Replies” are more fun to read, and often more illuminating about a publication. There should be more of that, but fear, I think, prevents it if it is someone in your field who might review your next proposal or article. So, we often sit in silence when we should speak out.

          A lot of my cloud seeding work was in “Comments” on work deemed bogus. What the HELL, go for the juggler…of data. haha.

          That’s a pretty funny story about that article by you and Marcia B.

          Well, among the many papers and comments I have had rejected, the one I will be posting in a few days was originally a “Comment” on the review of Cumulus seeding by well known advocate of seeding, “BAS.”
          He did a “pretty good job”, found no reliable evidence of a seeding effect, but I still felt it needed to be fleshed out.

          It was after BAS article was published that Peter Hobbs, in his final take on this subject, termed the cloud seeding literature as “often unreliable” in a letter to the Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. Amen.

          Thanks, again, Jon.



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