Cloud seeding is the a method used to attempt to increase the size of clouds to produce precipitation. Dry ice or silver iodide aerosols are spread into the cloud to act as nuclei for the formation of new ice particles (causing the cloud to grow upwards). As the ice particles grow, they eventually fall (and melt) forming rain.
Cloud seeding has been researched for about 50 years, the United States toyed with the idea for about 20 years, but funding was all but removed in the 1970s. China however, is devoting 60-90 million dollars a year to cloud seeding in an attempt to increase the overall precipitation. There are forms of cloud seeding, static, dynamic, and hydroscopic. Static is described in mle’s answer, dynamic is a very complicated process involving increasing air current, and hydroscopic disperses salts into the atmosphere that grow in size as the water attaches to them. Scientific studies are unconvincing as to cloud seeding’s efficacy and debates abound. Questions are being raised about the possible toxicity of silver iodide, whether rain is being “stolen” from other areas, and whether we are just sweeping global warming under the rug.
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