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Bernard Vonnegut
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Bernard Vonnegut

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Bernard Vonnegut

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Bernard Vonnegut

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Bernard Vonnegut

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Bernard Vonnegut

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Bernard Vonnegut

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BERNARD VONNEGUT

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Bernard Vonnegut

Remarkable aspects of the thundercloud are its intense electrification, precipitation, and convection. A satisfactory understanding of how a thunderstorm works will require a continuing series of investigations to explore the complicated interrelationships among these phenomena. Until now the major effort has been devoted to studies of how precipitation causes electrification.

For a century, investigations of thunderstorms have been dominated by the idea that lightning is produced by a charge-separation process within the cloud caused by falling precipitation. The origin of this idea, its implications, present status, and probable future are examined in the light of T. S. Kuhn's views on the nature of scientific progress. Despite some achievements, the results of research based on the precipitation theory have proved disappointing. For example, they have shed little light on important problems such as the factors that determine the polarity of the cloud electric dipole and the role that electricity plays in meteorological processes. During this century, with the discovery of cosmic rays and the ionization they produce in the air above the cloud, it has become apparent that other processes, which do not involve contact charge separation or falling precipitation, are also causing electrification.

Thunderstorms exercise great influence, for both good and bad, on many human activities. In view of their great environmental importance, it is surprising how little is known about them and how little effort is being made to understand how they work. It is urged that the present limited thunderstorm research activities be expanded to include new, and possibly more productive, approaches.

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Bernard Vonnegut

Preliminary experiments have been made on seeding natural supercooled clouds with silver iodide smokes. It is believed that in many cases positive effects were observed. In a majority of the experiments it is impossible to prove beyond doubt that the effects are the result of the seeding. However, certain of these experiments demonstrate conclusively that modification of natural clouds with silver iodide smokes can be achieved. Areas of supercooled ground fog several hundred feet in diameter have been changed to ice at a temperature of − 5°C by small scale releases of silver iodide smoke from the ground. Similarly areas up to a mile in diameter have been filled with small ice crystals by releasing the smoke at − 20°C when the air is supersaturated with respect to ice.

On December 21, 1948, a supercooled stratus cloud layer approximately 1,000 feet thick at a temperature of − 10° was seeded from an airplane with silver iodide smoke produced by dropping three or four pounds of burning charcoal which had been impregnated with one percent by weight of silver iodide. For purposes of comparison, and in order to definitely establish the position of the seeding, dry ice seedings were made about three miles away on either side. The results of the silver iodide seeding are clearly visible in photographs taken from the airplane. About six square miles of the supercooled cloud layer were transformed into ice crystals as the result of seeding with somewhat less than one ounce of silver iodide.

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