Hail—pieces of ice that form and fall from clouds instead of snow or rain—has always been a problem for farmers in some areas of the United States. Hail pellets can fall with great force and destroy crops in the field. Over the last few decades, a method of reducing hail, called “cloud seeding,” has been tried. In cloud seeding, the chemical silver iodide is sprayed on storm clouds from an airplane. This makes the clouds produce harmless rain or snow instead of hail. Several pieces of evidence suggest that cloud seeding has been effective in protecting crops from hail.
Experiments in the laboratory support the idea that cloud seeding is effective. Hail usually forms in water vapor that is close to the freezing point. However, when experimenters added silver iodide to cold water vapor in the laboratory, they often observed light snow forming instead of hail pellets.
Evidence from Asia
There is evidence about the effectiveness of cloud seeding from several countries around the world. In some Asian countries, for example, cloud seeding has been successfully used to control precipitation in urban areas. These positive results suggest that cloud seeding should also be effective in protecting fields and farms in the United States.
A few local studies also support the value of cloud seeding. One study conducted in a farming region in the central United States, for example, directly monitored crop damage due to hail. The study found that in an area where cloud seeding was used there was reduced hail damage compared to previous years.