New technique may help create rain
"Cloud-seeding" involves flying into clouds and spraying salt
Scientists believe it is creating rainfall in desert
Anyone who’s planned a wedding knows that it takes several painstaking months to ensure that every little detail – from the menu to the music – is just right.
But there’s one thing a bride and groom typically can’t control: the weather.
Until now, that is.
A UK-based travel company is now offering couples a guaranteed “perfect wedding day,” sold as a rain-free destination wedding package. The company, Oliver’s Travels, requires six weeks to plan the event and charges around $150,000 for a sunny day.
How do they stop the rain?
The company uses a process called “cloud seeding,” a scientific method deployed to alter natural weather patterns and increase precipitation. By increasing rainfall at any given time, the company can effectively clear the sky of all bad weather just hours before your wedding.
Cloud seeding is a multimillion-dollar industry and used in countries like the United States, China and India. It is primarily done to increase rainfall and create water. Scientists are studying cloud seeding’s potential as a solution to drought – and in the United Arab Emirates, it is seen as one possible way to sustain agriculture in an otherwise dry region.
Don’t want to spend $150,000 to stop the rain? Here’s a DIY guide to cloud seeding.
Step 1: Get an airplane
Cloud seeding is performed by pilots who fly into areas of moisture in the atmosphere. It requires flying a small aircraft that can easily navigate through stormy weather, such as a Cessna or Beechcraft King Air.
Step 2: Fly into clouds
To seed a cloud, pilots fly directly into cumulonimbus, or towering cumulus clouds. They resemble tall, fluffy marshmallows and are shaped by powerful updrafts from the ground. Over time, these clouds typically develop into thunderstorms.
Step 3: Release salt into the air
Once the airplane flies inside a cloud, the pilot ignites one of dozens of flares that are fixed on the aircraft’s wings by a firing mechanism in the cockpit. The flares release smoke and salt compounds, such as sodium chloride or potassium chloride, into the air, which attracts water vapor in the cloud to form water droplets. These droplets coalesce into bigger droplets and, once heavy enough, can eventually fall as rain.
Step 4: Aim for the turbulence
Most pilots are trained to avoid flying directly into thunderstorms. But cloud-seeders have to aim for updrafts, which are created as warmer air from the ground is drawn into the base of cumulonimbus clouds. These updrafts help to mix the salt and smoke throughout the entire cloud, but they also make for a very bumpy ride.
Step 5: Repeat
Cloud-seeding flights can take three to four hours, during which time pilots can release dozens of flares. The more salt and smoke injected into the air, the better the chances of producing rain.
So, does it actually work? Meteorologists in the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s driest countries and top consumers of water, believe cloud seeding is increasing rainfall in the desert, though scientists are still trying to quantify precisely how much.
As for your wedding day? The rain-free wedding offered by Oliver’s Travels does come with a guarantee.
There is, however, one disclaimer on its website: “If a natural disaster such as a hurricane were to occur, this cannot be controlled.”