After spending almost a decade researching if they can manipulate the weather, Idaho Power officials are coming back with positive results.
By using a method called “cloud seeding,” meteorologists and researchers are seeing an increase in snowfall in the Payette River Basin.
How do they do it? Generators shoot silver iodide into the sky in a gas form. The silver iodide then latches onto water particles and crystallizes them before they evaporate when approaching high elevation.
Besides increasing snowpack, cloud seeding is also used by airports to help clear heavy fog and by farmers hoping to reduce the amount of hail damage on crops.
“Over a longer period of time, we’re seeing a positive effect in the Payette Basin,” said Derek Blestrud, meteorologist with Idaho Power, during Friday’s Idaho Water Resource Board meeting. The utility company currently has 10 generators in the Payette area.
“We’re in the 5-15 percent increase in snowfall right now from when we first began,” he said.
Critics of cloud seeding say it diverts precious precipitation from other parts of the state. Blestrud said that can happen but only if the project is poorly executed.
“When done correctly, the downwind effects are either neutral or positive,” Blestrud said.
Idaho Power also has 16 cloud-seeding generators in the Upper Snake River Basin. However, they’ve only applied the weather method since 2009 and don’t have as much data to compare for concrete results.
“This is something we would love to expand to other areas of the state but we’re limited by funding,” Blestrud said.