Cloud seeding leaves skies clear, but lasting effects remain hazy

Recently Texas officials have claimed that the state now controls its own weather through a process called cloud seeding.

Weather modification has been going on for decades. In the 1940s glaciogenic cloud seeding was discovered; the process involved ice crystals being introduced into thin clouds.

Soon after, scientists began work on concocting a chemical crystalline that would have the same effect. Chemists found similar qualities in a chemical compound traditionally used to process film.

Silver iodide is the most common form of cloud seeding used today.

When China hosted the summer Olympics, cloud seeding was used in neighboring areas of Beijing to guarantee clear skies over the games. After successfully keeping that promise, China launched a full biological assault on the skies.

Yet following the games, China officials admitted the weather became out of their control and attributed a 2009 blizzard to their own handy work.

This weather modification is sweeping the globe and though the biggest offender is China, at least 30 other countries have developed cloud seeding programs, including the U.S. With the extensive work going into constant effort to control rainfall, one might imagine an equal amount of time has been spent on testing the effects of the chemical they are spraying into the clouds.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. While there has been direct human testing on silver iodide, it has only been on the effects for someone using it as a solvent in old fashioned film processing.

According to Medscape.com, prolonged exposure can cause discoloration of the hands. While the yellow white film-processing chemical would sometimes leave the skin a little yellow or orange, the lasting result was often a grey ashy color staining their hands. This discoloration is a side-effect of the disorder, agyria.

Argyria is classified as a skin condition though it also can potentially affect mucous membranes. Basically, the silver particles impregnate the skin and leaving residue in mucous membranes. Studies conclude that an unknown amount of silver can cause this condition because the rate at which it affects individuals varies so much.

But this is, again, testing contact with the skin, not on the inhalation of silver iodide.

Conceptually, the silver iodide will encapsulate water droplets in a cloud. The chemical would cause the droplets to form a snow-like crystal, and descend to earth. The claim by scientists is that during this process the silver iodide evaporates.

Yet this chemical is being injected into our clouds to create drops that fall to the ground. The chemically engulfed drops fall on deserts, lakes, rivers, the crops we eat and the mountain ranges we get our drinking water from.

Silver iodide has proven to be highly toxic in high doses, as part of the compound is the most toxic heavy metal; silver.

A 1970 study by the University of Michigan did extensive tests on silver build-up in various organisms and environments. Testing on fish showed that silver only materialized on specific areas of the fish, on and around its gills. Yet the most drastic effect has been seen with microorganisms. When tested, they developed silver tracts within their vital living systems.

The tests of drinking water confirmed the presence of silver in areas which used cloud seeding. Such “contamination” has resulted  in health regulation by the EPA that allows only a certain amount of silver to be considered non-threatening.

Though it is enough to kill a small fish, we are assured that over a 27-year period of being exposed to this water, humans are not likely to develop argyria.

Cloud seeding programs are all over the U.S. With Texas leading the way, many other states trail just behind including Utah, Colorado, Nevada and California. California officials have expressed the benefit of cloud seeding in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The silver iodide for that mountain range is released from the ground, whereas many traditionally inject the vapor via jet or rocket.

The vapor reportedly gets blown up into the clouds, and half an hour later snow begins to fall.

All of this claims to be harmless, but contemporary testing is sparse. By living in a state where they practice this system of weather modification, essentially it’s being tested on us. The only way we’ll know if these levels of silver in our snow, water, food and air have long-term effects is by living them.

And while potentially harmless, it’s still a troubling notion to be something of a test subject.

About Amanda Zive

Amanda is a staff writer on the Daily Titan. Serving as a staff writer of the Daily Titan is a requirement for all Journalism majors.