If you live in Alberta, this may sound like an oxymoron, that is because the area between High River and Rocky Mountain House is the hail belt of the world. So how do we control it? Cloud seeding. No not the conspiracy filled notion that the government is spreading mind control fumes into the atmosphere, but rather changing the way hail is formed before it falls. Alberta alone has sustained over $4 billion in damage over the past 10 years and something had to be done.
Enter the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society (ASWMS), a private organization started by Alberta’s insurance companies to better understand hail and minimize its effects. In partnership with Weather Modification International (WMI) they spread billions of microscopic silver iodide particles by diving twin engine aircrafts into the meanest looking clouds, causing the water to freeze and fall faster. This means more, but much smaller, ice crystals fall out of the sky and most of them melt before they even hit the ground. More hail but smaller hail equals less damage!
But how much less damage? With an operating cost of $2.5 million per year (paid for by the insurance companies) they can reduce a storm’s damage by 10%. When looking at single hailstorms like the one in July 2010 that caused over $400 million in claims, the program clearly pays for itself.
The summer is here, and hail season is upon us. Let's be thankful for those brave men and women flying in and out of those angry prairie clouds!
For more information about cloud seeding and other weather and environment related programs, visit the Weather Modification Incorporated website.