By BRYCE MARTIN
Pioneer Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
During the summer months, spanning June 1 to Sept. 1, a meteorologist and assistant meteorologist are hired through the state cloud modification program to live in Bowman and physically operate its radar.
Under the North Dakota State Water Commission, the meteorologists use the radar in part for the purpose of aerial cloud seeding, which is the process of delivering a seeding agent by aircraft either at the cloud base or cloud top. Top seeding allows for direct injection of the seeding agent into the supercooled cloud top. Base seeding is the release of the seeding agent in the updraft of a cloud base.
The North Dakota Cloud Modification Project is an operational program that seeds clouds for hail damage reduction and rain enhancement in western North Dakota.
Counties currently participating in the program are Bowman, McKenzie, Mountrail, Ward, Williams, and part of Slope.
The cloud modification project began its 2015 season last week, with an active early June weather pattern of showers and thunderstorms.
Nine flights were flown by the two project aircraft.
Radar facilities in Bowman operate around the clock during the NDCMP.
Operational cloud seeding began in North Dakota in the 1950s, when ground-based seeding activities began in the west, according to the State Water Commission’s website.
By the late 1950s, hail was recognized as the greatest weather-related threat to small grain crops; many growers suffered significant hail damage or total losses in back-to-back years.
The beginnings of what is today’s project came about when Bowman County farmer-rancher Wilbur Brewer joined forces with pilot neighbors Bill Fisher and Bill Mazaros to form Weather Modification, Inc., the state’s first all-airborne commercial cloud seeding company. Seeding first for just a few townships, then later entire counties, the program expanded and spread eastward throughout much of North Dakota. The program at that time was entirely locally sponsored.
In 1980, a federally-funded research program was undertaken to develop an understanding of the physical processes involved in hail and precipitation formation, and how such processes might be best modified beneficially. The program, known as the Federal-State Cooperative Program in Atmospheric Modification Research, was funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency within the Department of Commerce.
Roughly half a million federal dollars per year were pooled with the available state resources to collect and analyze thunderstorm data.
The program ends Sept. 1 but is some cases, such as last year, can extend up to a certain amount of weeks in time for harvest.