During the past decade, statistically positive results have been reported for four major, randomized hygroscopic seeding experiments, each in a different part of the world. Experiments on cold convective clouds using hygroscopic flares were carried out in South Africa and Mexico. Experiments on warm convective clouds using hygroscopic particles were carried out in Thailand and India. The scientific evidence for enhancing rainfall from convective clouds by hygroscopic seeding from these four randomized experiments is examined and critically assessed. The assessment uses, as a measure of proof of concept, the criteria for success of any cloud seeding activity that were recommended in the Scientific Background for the 1998 AMS Policy Statement on Planned and Inadvertent Weather Modifications, criteria that required both statistical and physical evidence.
Based on a critical examination of the results of these four major, randomized hygroscopic seeding experiments, it has been concluded that they have not yet provided either the statistical or physical evidence required to establish that the effectiveness of hygroscopic seeding of convective clouds to increase precipitation is scientifically proven. The impressive statistical results from these experiments must be viewed with caution because, according to the proof-of-concept criteria, credibility of the results depends on the physical plausibility of the seeding conceptual model that forms the basis for anticipating seeding-induced increases in rainfall. The credibility of the hygroscopic seeding for microphysical effects hypothesis has been seriously undermined because it cannot explain the magnitude and timing of the statistically significant increases in precipitation that were observed. Theories suggesting that the microphysical effects of seeding-enhanced downdraft circulations to produce longer-lived clouds have been advanced; however, in the absence of any supporting physical or model evidence, they must be considered to be in the realm of speculation.
These results do not alter this author's basic position; cloud seeding is advocated in situations where it is scientifically and operationally appropriate, and it is strongly recommended that an independent evaluation accompany each research or operational project in order that the science of weather modification benefit from the experience.