The ever-increasing severe economic damage imposed on national and world wide economies by severe weather, the need for sufficient and safe water resources for an increasing world population, and the threat of adverse climate change led to this critical assessment of the state-of-the-art of weather modification (WM) and to a proposal of a road map for the future.
Special attention is given to rain enhancement because it is further developed than snowpack augmentation, hail suppression, tornado and hurricane modification, and other weather-related disaster control ideas. The question of what makes a rain enhancement experiment acceptable to the scientific community is answered by the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) criteria, which address statistical evaluation, the measurement of rain, the understanding of nature's precipitation processes with the underlying physics and dynamics of clouds and cloud systems, and the transferability of experiment design. These criteria are no longer specific enough or satisfactory and will have to be reconsidered.
An actual WM experiment also involves a variety of techniques and technologies, aspects that need to be complemented by numerical modeling of clouds and cloud responses to seeding. Modeling also allows assessment of the extra-area effects, that is, detrimental effects of precipitation on adjacent areas. Assimilation models may be giving better estimates of the rain at the ground because they can integrate restricted information from radar and rain gauges with mesoscale meteorological and remote sensing, as well as hydrological, data. However, massive improvements in computer capacity are required to handle these problems.
Weather modification has been progressing very slowly in the past because of the enormity of the problem and the fact that the precipitation process is far from being understood. Considering that rain increases are attempted within a range of 10%–20%, the lack of knowledge at corresponding accuracy is particularly evident in the fields of cloud physics, cloud and cloud systems dynamics, weather forecasting, numerical modeling, and measuring technology.
Benefits of new intensive studies of precipitation processes will not be limited to WM; they are also vital to improving weather forecasting and climate change modeling. There is one additional aspect of WM; WM can also be used to test newly developed precipitation physics and models by studying if the clouds react to seeding in the predicted manner.
This article is a wake-up call to put more intellectual and financial resources into the exploration and modification of the precipitation processes in all their forms. All these points lead to the suggestion of an outline of a national precipitation research and weather modification program.
Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada