At the heart of the 40-year atmospheric research endeavors of the Illinois State Water Survey have been studies to understand precipitation processes in order to learn how precipitation is modified purposefully and accidentally, and to measure the physical and socioeconomic consequences of cloud and precipitation modification. Major field and laboratory activities of past years are briefly treated as a basis for describing the key findings of the past ten years. Recent studies of inadvertent and purposeful cloud and rain modification and their effects are emphasized, including a 1989 field project conducted in Illinois and key findings from an on-going exploratory experiment addressing cloud and rain modification. Results are encouraging for the use of dynamic seeding on summer cumuliform clouds of the Midwest.
Typical in-cloud results at −10°C reveal multiple updrafts that tend to be filled with large amounts of supercooled drizzle and raindrops. Natural ice production is vigorous, and initial concentrations are larger than expected from ice nuclei. However, natural ice production is not so vigorous as to preclude opportunities for seeding. Radar-based studies of such clouds reveal that their echo cores usually can be identified prior to desired seeding times, which is significant for the evaluation of their behavior. Cell characteristics show considerable variance under different types of meteorological conditions. Analysis of cell mergers reveals that under conditions of weak vertical shear, mid-level intercell flow at 4 km occurs as the reflectivity bridge between cells rapidly intensifies. The degree of intensification of single-echo cores after they merge is strongly related to the age and vigor of the cores before they join. Hence, cloud growth may be enhanced if seeding can encourage echo cores to merge at critical times. Forecasting research has developed a technique for objectively distinguishing between operational seeding and nonoperational days and for objectively predicting maximum cloud-top height and seeding suitability. An accuracy rate of up to 60% in predicting maximum echo-top height using four categories has been achieved and suggests its use as a covariate in future experimentation. Impact studies illustrate that sizable summer rain increases would be necessary to produce economically beneficial outcomes for Corn Belt agriculture. Increases of ≥25% in July rainfall across certain high-production crop districts of the Corn Belt would produce economic effects realized nationally.