15th Conference on Planned and Inadvertent Weather Modification


Some environmental, ethical, and economic questions related to artificial rainfall enhancement: an outsiders perspective

Michael W. Douglas, NOAA/NSSL, Norman, OK

It is argued that weather modification for the purpose of increasing rainfall over wide areas may not be an environmentally, ethically, or economically wise line of action. It is often assumed that increasing rainfall is almost invariably beneficial. However, if widespread rainfall augmentation over dry regions of the continents were possible, it is argued that this would not necessarily yield a long-term positive result. There are two key sets of questions that this presentation raises:

1) is it environmentally and ethically acceptable to convert natural dry regions into artificially-induced moist regions? What are the ecological implications of this conversion? How does one assess the environmental impact of widespread cloud seeding?

2) what is the fundamental objective of artificially increasing rainfall? What are the long-term implications of this for human activities and human sensitivities to climatic extremes?

It will be argued that the environmental impact of widespread (and successful) cloud seeding cannot be viewed as positive from an environmental impact perspective, in that dry adapted species will be eventually eliminated from the environment. This raises the question of the relative value of different species. Finally, it can be argued that successful rainfall augmentation will, in the long-term, actually increase the vulnerability of most societies to extreme climate variations.

Session 7, Societal and economic effects of human-induced weather and climate impacts
Thursday, 18 January 2001, 1:30 PM-2:00 PM

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