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As Storms Arrive, Rainmakers Are Still in Demand

Climate: Some water districts are seeding clouds in case Mother Nature fails to deliver.

December 06, 1997|SUSAN ABRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

And neither can meteorologists--or even Tom Henderson, president of Fresno-based Atmospherics, the largest cloud-seeding company in California.

Henderson said that if El Nino brings more rain than the water districts can handle, all cloud-seeding projects in the state will be suspended.

"Most of these cloud-seeding projects are sponsored by agencies which use this as one more water resource tool," Henderson said.

A former hydrologist, Henderson founded Atmospherics in 1960. The company has contracts in 12 states and 16 countries.

But should "Mother Nature get the ball rolling" and El Nino does deliver, then cloud-seeding projects in California will halt.

"The threat of a possible El Nino suspends and turns all contracts off," he said.

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How Seeding Works

Storm clouds are filled with droplets of water that are very cold but don't freeze. In order to fall, they must form ice crystals by growing extremely cold or attaching themselves to a solid particle. Nature provides such particles in the form of dust. Cloud-seeders coax the process along by injecting silver iodide particles into clouds. The droplets freeze onto these particles, and precipitation begins.

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