Air pollution is taking over cities around the world. Australia’s air is fairly clean by international standards, though it still has a way to go. In countries such as South Korea and Thailand, however, that air pollution is on a whole other level.
That’s why these governments are turning to weather modification technologies in a bid to clean up the air. South Korea announced in March plans to begin deploying so-called cloud seeding technology to make it rain in Seoul, and the Thailand government actually went ahead and induced rain in Bangkok in January. But, um, how well does this actually work?
Cloud seeding, which basically involves misting clouds with small particles that help water droplets to form, isn’t exactly revolutionary. The idea has been around since the 1940s when Bernard Vonnegut, an atmospheric scientist, discovered that silver iodide particles could be used to form snow from water vapour in a lab.
“Cloud seeding presently is suffering from a lack of credibility not because it is not a credible thing to do, but because it is a hard thing to do correctly and should be done with rigorous science,” Daniel Rosenfield, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Earth Sciences, told us.
Shooting clouds with an element such as silver iodide can’t always produce rain, and the rain won’t always occur exactly how researchers would’ve liked. The conditions that exacerbate the air pollution in Southeast Asian countries — dry, cool air — don’t help when it comes to making clouds. So cloud seeding is often even more difficult to do successfully during these pollution events.
“The conditions when you need to clear the air pollution most are the least suitable for cloud seeding,” Rosenfield said.
And while cloud seeding can be a quick fix when poor air quality is putting life on pause, no amount of rain can stop the pollution at the source.
“It’s a very good idea to address the air pollution by reducing the emissions by moving to renewable energy, electrical cars,” Rosenfield told us. “That will solve not only the air pollution problem but the global warming problem.”