Scientists give thumbs down to rainmaking technology    2007-11-23 12:00:01    

Sydney, Nov.23 : International scientists have already given rainmaking technology funded by the Australian government the thumbs down, says an adviser to the World Meteorological Organization.
International scientists have already given rainmaking technology funded by the Australian government the thumbs down, says an adviser to the World Meteorological Organization.

But proponents of the technology say the criticism is unjust.

Dr Roelof Bruintjes, a US-based researcher who advises the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on rainfall enhancement, was commenting on technology soon to be tested in Queensland by the Australian Rain Corporation.

The Sydney-based company, which was recently allocated 10 million Australian dollars from the Australian Government Water Fund, hopes to use forthcoming trials to show its technology can bring rain.

The technology is being tested to see if it can make new rain clouds from blue skies by generating ions in the atmosphere.

This is very different from existing rainmaking technology, which relies on seeding existing clouds, and has been carried out for decades in Tasmania and the Snowy Mountains.

Some Australian experts have already publicly said they are sceptical of the new ionisation technology and Bruintjes agrees.

Scientists involved in testing the Australian Rain Corporation technology, including Professor Jürg Keller of the University of Queensland, say the ionisation system uses a ground-based device to attract water molecules.

These then condense, generating heat that, in turn, triggers an up-draft of the kind that occurs when clouds form naturally.

But Bruintjes, a cloud physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado, says WMO experts have already warned against using such ionisation techniques because they are not based on accepted scientific principles.

Bruintjes does not understand why Australia has embraced the technology.

"Any country that is in a severe drought is desperate to use any type of technology and maybe this is what has happened in Australia," he says.

Queanbeyan-based sustainability consultant Andrew Campbell, is advising the Australian Rain Corporation on the Queensland trials.

He says it is prudent to investigate whether the technology works in Australian conditions, even if scientists don't understand how it works.

"From a water policy perspective, the much more important question is whether or not this technology enhances rainfall," says Campbell, former chief executive officer of Land and Water Australia.

"If it does we can analyse the mechanisms at our leisure. If it doesn't then that's a completely academic exercise." (ANI)
© 2007 ANI

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