Scientific Talks


This talk-autobiography is both a tribute to the late Professor Peter V. Hobbs, our work together at the University of Washingon, and how we came together in his Cloud and Aerosol Research Group.   It is a dip into the sometimes murky waters of cloud seeding.  The early experimental work that Peter Hobbs did was in the Cascade Mountains in the 1970s.  In those days, Peter Hobbs was quite optimistic about the potential of cloud seeding and helped form increasingly optimistic statements about its viability on National Academy of Science panels.  However, after a new employee arrived in the mid-1970s, he and the “new employee”,  having “insider information”, began to issue a stream of publications and commentaries critical of cloud seeding for the next 25 years.  Before he passed in 2005, Peter Hobbs ended his era in this domain in 2001 by describing the body of the cloud seeding literature  as “often unreliable.”

You will see why from this presentation.

In 2006, Professor Hobbs and I received a monetary prize from the World Meteorological Organization for our work in weather modification.  My part in the Prize was only that due to reanalyses of cloud seeding experiments and commentaries in that domain.  It is doubtful I would have received any honor if I had been the only one nominated.

This lengthy Power Point presentation, documenting both periods of Peter Hobbs work in cloud seeding described above,  was given in much truncated form at the Peter Hobbs Symposium Day at the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in January 2008.  It was reprised in somewhat longer form at a department wide colloquium at the Atmospheric Sciences Department, University of Washington in April 2008.  In spite of the present length of this ppt, one that might pose an obstacle for readers, the twists and turns in the cloud seeding realm  have relevance to other fields, where, as in cloud seeding,  if the scientific community is polarized on a subject, then abuses of science are pretty much inevitable.

By nature, I tend toward humorous, irreverent approaches to science talks, and the presentations I have given, and the one here, is no different in style than most of the talks I gave at the University of Washington. Perhaps more than anything else, I enjoy getting a chuckle from an audience.   So, in this you will find instances of tongue-in-cheek science humor (probably only insiders will get), “humorous” sarcasms about what scientists do.   Inevitably,  a serious tone is used when describing irregularities by scientists when it came to reporting cloud seeding results.  These are instances where  some scientists fell short of being  “disinterested” in what they were studying, and instead spun science toward an a priori personal viewpoint.  Some of the “gags” in the PPT presentation don’t come through here in this web format.  Oh, well.

Due to being critical of some scientists in this presentation, I have blocked out authors’ names on the pages of journal articles here as a courtesy.  I would say they were scientists who had good motivations, but just weren’t critical enough about some of the things that they said and reported; that is, did not try to break their own hypoetheses hard enough.   Those failures allowed a person with very modest skills like me to go “behind the scenes” of various experiments and find eggregious flaws.

Below, two recent references on the subject of cloud seeding for background.

The American Meteorological Society’s Statement on Planned Weather Modification

The most recent assessment of cloud seeding by the National Academy of Sciences

And, a word of advice to commercial seeding interests, paraphrasing former Washington Husky football coach, Rick Neuheisel’s famous “scoreboard” quip:

“Randomize, baby, randomize.”

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