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Study aims to determine if seeding clouds works

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Compiled by Allen Best

DENVER, Colo. — After several years of drought, ski areas, big cities, and water districts of Colorado are spending more than $1 million this winter to seed clouds in hopes of inducing more snow. But how well does it work?

That’s what a $100,000 study being conducted this winter will attempt to more definitively answer. In the study, funded by the federal government, researchers for Colorado State University will track storms daily, comparing the predicted and actual snowfall accumulations in areas targeted for more snow with clouds seeded by silver iodide particles. These areas will be compared with control areas, where there is no seeding.

A National Research Council study of weather modification programs takes a dim view of cloud seeding generally, but less so of winter cloud seeding. There are, says the agency, in a report issued in October, "strong suggestions of positive seeding effects in winter… cloud systems occurring over mountainous terrain."

The report states that the most compelling evidence that cloud seeding works comes from experiments during the 1960s at Climax, a molybdenum mine located near the Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, and Vail ski areas. Although scientists initially over-reported the amount of extra snow that fell, later studies still came up with a "possible increase in precipitation of about 10 per cent."

Denver also commissioned two studies last winter intended to determine whether the $400,000 it is spending to seed clouds is producing more snow in its water collection areas, located in the Winter Park and Summit County areas. One study suggested a 14 per cent augmentation, but the second study found no evidence of silver iodide in the snow.

Skier fined for crossing rope

BANFF, Alberta — Martin Minarik seems to be a man of great mountaineering ability. After all, only last summer he climbed K2, the world’s second highest peak and, compared to Mount Everest, a much more challenging and dangerous climb.

Even so, that didn’t count when he was caught skiing out of bounds into avalanche terrain at Sunshine Village. He was, reports the Banff Crag & Canyon, fined $500.

A native of the Czech Republic, Minarik told the judge that he didn’t know crossing the boundary was illegal. "In Europe, if you pass it (the rope), you’re on your own. You simply can’t get rescued. I saw the sign for avalanche terrain. I didn’t see the sign for no trespassing."

Parks Canada adopts avalanche symbols

BANFF, Alberta — Parks Canada has adopted pyramid-shaped icons – red for high danger, yellow for medium, and green for low risk – as a way to communicate avalanche risk. The agency is also developing a terrain rating system for popular backcountry routes and destinations, using the black-diamond, blue-square, and green-circle icons commonly seen at lift-serviced ski areas, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

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