by: Victor Boesen
We Are Not Lacking in Research
Faring better in getting his views published was Dr. Walter Orr Roberts, Director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research near Boulder, Colorado. The day was not far off when man would know how to make reliable long-range weather forecasts, hopefully declared Dr. Roberts in Western Water News for July and August, 1965.
Established in 1960, NCAR's mission was to "provide a focal point for a vigorous national effort in the atmospheric sciences that draw together scientists from many disciplines and provide the necessary support and facilities for research on important problems of the atmosphere," one of its leaflets explained. The enterprise was supported by the National Science Foundation and operated by the nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, surprising more than forty universities from Massachusetts to California.
"One major goal of atmospheric research has always been to improve our ability to predict the weather accurately," the leaflet continued. "Aided by new technological developments such as radar and weather satellites, the weather forecasters have improved their accuracy a great deal over the past few decades. However, it still is not possible to make very precise forecasts of weather more than a couple of days in advance," the tract said, leaving the reader to wonder in what way forecasting had improved.
NCAR was one of many such government undertakings which began proliferating after Langmuir and Schaefer discovered the secret of rainmaking, starting with the military's Project Cirrus in 1947 to check out with further experiments what Langmuir and Schaefer had discovered.
As ever more government agencies got into the experimental cloud-seeding act, all more or less duplicating one another's work, it became virtually ritualistic in each new congress to call for legislation to put somebody in overall charge of the government's researches in weather modification.
Finally, in 1961, Congress tagged the Bureau of Reclamation to be the ball carrier in these studies. Out of this came "Protect Skywater . . . to explore, develop, and eventually apply the technology of weather modification to meet the Nation's increasing demand for clean water."
There would be lots of money for lots of people for a long time. The fob was "recognized in the mid-1960s as at least an $800 million task over a period of twenty years."
By law the Bureau of Reclamation classified all its seeding operations in the field as "experimental." This hobbled the work of private operators such as Krick by keeping them at least 150 miles from any area where the government was at work.
In 1966, its "lingering doubts" put to rest by ten more years of research, the National Academy of Sciences cautiously reaffirmed what the Eisenhower Committee on Weather Modification had announced in 1957--that cloud-seeding does indeed help it to rain. Jt was now time to try to get the government to add some operational cloud-seeding to its experiments-that is, seeding to bring rain as well as information.
Two bills were introduced in the Senate, S.23 and S.2916. The first directed the Secretary of the Interior, working with the National Science Foundation, to seed for rain in at least five regions of the United States. There would be $20 million for this. The second bill called for an eight-year program of research under the Secretary of Commerce into all aspects of weather control-fog, hail, hurricanes, tornadoes. For this project there would be no limit on the money, but "such sums as may be necessary."
"It is apparent that 1966 should be a year of action," hopefully observed Peter Dominick, now a Colorado Senator, as he opened hearings on the two bills beore the Committee on Commerce in Denver on March 31.
Once again, as at the hearings ten years earlier, to have the National Science Foundation go on with the research, Krick and his men were on hand to testify. What they had to contribute took up sixty pages of the official transcript of the proceedings. Since Langmuir and Schaefer made their historic discovery in 1946, Krick testified, he and his organization had conducted more than two million generator hours of operation in twenty-nine states, seven provinces of Canada, Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, Spain, France, the Alps, Italy, Sardinia, Israel, Syria, North Africa and the Congo.
"Some projects have been operated consecutively for fourteen years," Krick said. Clients included a United States government agency, foreign governments, state and provincial governments, counties, towns, chemical corporations, paper and pulp companies, power and utility firms, ski tows, farmers, ranchers, and others. "In these projects with a bibliography of the reports which have been made in an attempt to evaluate results."
In the overall they had increased precipitation by 15 to 30 percent. In the United States they had reduced hail damage to crops by 70 to 80 percent, and in Canada from 60 to 90 percent.
"Since 1951 we have advocated that significantly important benefits could accrue within the major watershed areas of the West by augmenting natural precipitation through weather modification. The knowledge and engineering are available. . . . We are not lacking in research. . . . We have provided all of our own data to the National Science Foundation at no charge."
Krick pointed out that what he and his organization were saying now was about the same as ten years before. "At that time we urged the findings of President Eisenhower's Advisory Committee be recognized as a valid accomplishment, that man had indeed increased precipitation by 9 to 17 percent based on studies of commercial cloud-seeding projects. We urged that this knowledge be utilized without further loss of time."
Krick charged that between the findings of the Eisenhower Committee and the current report of the National Academy of Sciences upholding them, ten years had been lost. "Now, again, unless positive action is taken, another ten years could be lost debating the relative merits of such programs," he warned, with more prophecy than he knew. "We see no reason for any further delay in activating operational programs here to augment national precipitation."
Krick said weather modification was the cheapest way to get more water and food. "Present knowledge must be applied broadly and without delays," he urged. "The fruits of further research may be incorporated as they become valid."
Senator Dominick's cheerful prediction that 1966 "should be a year of action" proved to be a poor one. The Senate passed S. 2916, but too late in the session for the House to act; bills to modify the weather went on being a routine exercise of each new congress.
Two years later, in 1968, Senator Dominick introduced a bill of his own, S.2058, with the specific purpose of bringing more rain and snow to the upper Colorado River region in order to increase the stream flow of this vital watercourse. His bill called for seeding operations to be carried on by experienced private companies that had proved what they could do. At the same time, to mollify the diehard skeptics, there would be money to evaluate their work by independent groups as it preceded.
Again, nothing happened; the bill died. "If this program as envisioned by Dominick in 1968 had gone through," Krick said flatly in the summer of 1977, "the present grim water prospects along the Colorado would not be present-there would be enough water for everybody."
In the fall of 1969, Krick forecast that the country would be hit by severe droughts during the decade of the 1970s. "Quite likely the early part of the decade will not be the critical period, but drought conditions could be as dominant by 1975 as they were in the fifties and thirties," Krick wrote in the October issue of The Farmer-Stockman, published in Oklahoma City and widely read by farmers and ranchers of the Southwest.
"Our basic long-range forecasting technique has been permitting us to construct pressure charts into the seventies already, and persistent dryness is not indicated to be firmly set until then," Krick wrote. "Western halves of Kansas, Oklahoma and Panhandle-Texas will be most exposed to droughts."
By the spring of 1971, just as Krick had forecast, the Oklahoma plains lay scorching under a burning sun as high-riding clouds drifted mockingly by, leaving no rain behind. Winds threatened soon to carry away the topsoil, restoring the dread dust-bowl days of the "Dirty Thirties." At stake was Oklahoma's billion-dollar farm and ranch economy, with all the melancholy implications which this held for the rest of the nation. Much of the wheat crop was already lost.
"The present drought conditions confirm Dr. Krick's expressions on the subject given in the October 1969 The Farmer-Stockman," wrote Ferdie Deering, editor and publisher of the periodical, in the April issue. He reminded his readers that the worst "drought years of the seventies are still ahead."
Deering compared Krick's forecast to the one he made in 1946 predicting the severe drought of the 1950s. He told how Krick's organization at that time had "mounted a gigantic cloud-seeding effort which relieved millions of acres of farm and ranch land as well as water supply for such cities as Lawton, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth, and many others."
The same measures could now help again if they were started soon enough, Deering wrote. He pointed out that "some of the early farm and ranch projects have been operated continuously since the fifties and have been pretty well immunized against drought." As July came and the new drought worsened, Deering directed increasing attention to Krick, whose long-range forecasts his publication had carried as a regular feature for twenty-five years, because the best they had been able to get from the Weather Bureau "was a report on what the weather had been in the same month a year earlier." That, Deering wrote, wasn't "a whole lot of help."
Deering recalled that Krick, as he made his long-range forecasts, began advancing the idea of seeding the clouds for more moisture, stirring up "a considerable amount of controversy, largely generated by government bureaucrats. They weren't providing long-range forecasts and they didn't believe in cloud-seeding, but they didn't want anybody else fooling around with the weather, which they seemed to regard as their own 'private public property.' "
By August 1971, when it was so dry that, as one rancher joked, "Out our way we'd need two inches of rain just to make it run off the blacktop road," Ferdie Deering reminded his readers that it had been nearly two years since The Farmer-Stockman published Krick's forecast of the current drought. It had now asked Krick how long he thought the drought would last and presented his answer:
"In our opinion this drought started in 1970 and will continue to spread, probably peaking out around 1975. Characteristic signs are readily apparent in areas such as western Oklahoma, west Texas, and southern New Mexico. We anticipate the drought, as it develops, will spread northward and eastward, working on up into states as far north as Illinois."
That reply, Deering wrote, made him think it was time to do something about the weather, but he had little hope that anything would be done.
"The basic potential of cloud-seeding to increase rainfall has been well known for more than a quarter of a century," he pointed out. "The U. S. Weather Bureau, now the National Weather Service, has resisted, denied, and ridiculed the entire idea for years, and is widely regarded as being largely responsible for delaying application of weather modification."
Meanwhile, a fourteen-man "weather modification study committee," named by Oklahoma's Governor Hall with Ferdie Deering as chairman, recommended to the governor that a cloud-seeding plan submitted by Krick be accepted. Krick proposed to install forty silver iodide generators 100 miles or so into Texas, each pouring forth $00 thousand billion silver iodide crystals a minute into the rising currents as likely looking clouds approached.
Krick guaranteed to bring down 20 to 30 percent more rain than otherwise could be expected in the target area of 10,000 square miles of the state's total of 70,000 square miles. Krick's rainmaking program would go on for a year, and his price was slightly over two cents an acre-$162,000 altogether.
Two days later the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation came in with a cloud-seeding scheme of its own-not to last a year but one month. The cost would be $210,000. The Bureau's plan was, of course, "experimental," meaning that the emphasis, as customary, was on research rather than applying proven techniques-and that private operators like Krick would have to keep any seeding projects of their own at least I5O miles away in order not to "contaminate" the government's experiments.
The Bureau of Reclamation planned to assault the clouds with ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer and explosive, spewing it from a giant C-97 cargo plane fitted with nozzles, after a pair of light planes with radar and flying ahead like coon dogs on a scent, picked out the clouds to hit.
There would also be a plane to fly through the rain to measure it. This touch of razzle-dazzle was too much for one member of Governor Hall's committee. "We will measure the rain if somebody will produce it," he snapped.
The vote of the governor's committee went to Krick, but the Bureau of Reclamation had money-Oklahoma didn't. So Krick was shoved aside. For Senator Dominick it finally was one too many experiments by the government at a time when the need for rain was critical, and he let fly with a straight-talking speech on the floor of the Senate on August ?, 1961.
"Weather modification is the unfortunate victim of a pervasive bureaucratic attitude-in segments of both the government and academia-that it must remain in the category of a research project, perhaps ad infinitum," Dominick began. "After a quarter of a century of permitting a special segment of the scientific community to sit on cloud-seeding as if it were some kind of illegitimate egg, we are-I repeat, after a quarter century-at a point where we should be able to use it as a prime weapon to fight drought. Instead, we find ourselves being told the egg isn't ready to hatch….
"After the Wright Brothers proved that it was possible to fly a heavier-than-air craft," Dominick went on, "the research that followed and continues today was not to prove that one could fly, but rather to improve on the means and method of flight. In my opinion, far too much of the governmental activity associated with cloud-seeding has been directed toward repeating what Doctors Schaefer, Langmuir, and Vonnegut-the Wright Brothers of cloudseeding-proved in 1946."
The senator referred to the ten years it had taken the National Science Foundation to confirm, in 1966, what the Eisenhower Committee on Weather Modification had found out in 1957. "Now here we are five years later," he reminded his colleagues, and the research was going on more furiously than ever. The Bureau of Reclamation had thirteen cloud-seeding projects going, "all listed in the realm of research" and involving at least eight major government agencies.
Dominick called for a "standardized plan of operation, which could be set in motion to apply to any drought-affected area of the country. When drought strikes," he concluded, "we should be able to call on cloud-seeding experts immediately, not after a drought has taken a firm hold, and for the future, we must be able to predict these droughts and prevent them by advance operations."
To no one's surprise, the results of the fertilizer-and-explosives attack on the Oklahoma clouds by the Bureau of Reclamation were described as "inconclusive," in keeping with the tradition of its experiments. This is not to say that nothing happened, however.
"I will admit," wryly observed Ferdie Deering, "that this operation produced downpours on or about September 4, 1971, that made farmers in Tillman and adjacent counties eligible for flood relief at the same time they were eligible for drought relief."
In the spring of 1972 Krick at last was called into action, and by that autumn he was operating all nine of Oklahoma's cloud-seeding programs, covering more than seven million acres-and it was raining. Within months both of Lawton's city reservoirs were brimming for the first time in recent memory. "Every area that has a cloud- seeding program has received more rain than the surrounding area," Ferdie Deering told Governor Hall.
It was raining so much that when it got to be above normal in the fall-140 percent in one locality-all but two of Krick's seeding operations were shut down until next year's wheat harvest was over.
But the drought of 1971 had cost Oklahoma $250 million of its crops, and farmers and businessmen went ahead on their own to get Krick's ground-based cloud-seeding projects set up over a larger portion of the state on a permanent basis. The generators would be turned on as needed and as Krick, by his long-range forecasting, saw the proper seeding conditions developing.
But now a threat to these do-it-yourself plans appeared from a new quarter of the United States government. "Another federal bureau which for many years openly opposed efforts to increase rainfall has now entered the picture and is looking at Oklahoma," reported the Oklahoma City Times. "Formerly called the U.S. Weather Bureau, it now uses the more distinguished title of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)."
Eugene Bollay, one of Krick's students in 1935 and now head of NOAA's weather experiments in Boulder, Colorado, was in town, the Times noted, and in a conference with the state's own Weather Study Modification Study Committee, told the members he was running a study to find a good place on the Great Plains to make a ten-year study of cloud-seeding. The study just to find the place to make the study was expected to cost $100,000.
The right place, as Bollay saw it, appeared to be the western third of Oklahoma. This meant that whatever the natives were doing to bring more rain to this vast region would have to stop, again to preserve the purity of the government's work.
"It is not likely," observed the Times with understatement, "that many folks in western Oklahoma would agree to shut down productive cloud-seeding efforts in order to provide scientists with a drought laboratory for the next ten years."
The newspaper quickly proved correct on this score. With a storm of protest rising, the government took steps to conquer by division.
"Bureaucrats from Denver and other places, aided by personnel from the University of Oklahoma, are holding meetings to try to persuade Oklahoma to abandon interest in a dozen locally-controlled cloud-seeding projects that brought them rain last summer when it was badly needed," Ferdie Deering wrote in May, 1973. "They are particularly burned up because Krick's contract projects in Oklahoma are succeeding. They do not want local people telling them whether to seed or not to seed, or to have other authority."
As the Oklahomans held. out against the government's plan to take away a third of the state for its experiments, the Bureau of Reclamation announced a compromise scheme, grandiosely called "A Conceptual Plan For a High Plains Cooperative Program." The new plan would take not a third of the state but all of it-but allowed private operators to work with them. (What this would do to the chastity of the government's findings wasn't brought out.) Priced at $20 million, the plan covered not only Oklahoma but large areas of seven other states as well-"continuing and repeating research that the Bureau has been doing since 1961," Ferdie Deering observed sourly.
It looked as if it would still be quite a while before there was any rain with a helping hand from the government. The timetable called for the "studies" to begin in 197S, the first report in 1980, and maybe some operational seeding by 1990.
However, since private lands were involved, the government needed the owners' permission before it could proceed. Nothing came of "A Conceptual Plan For a High Plain Cooperative Program" in Oklahoma, but it went ahead in Kansas, Texas and Montana. As spreading disaster bore out Krick's forecast of years before-WESTERN DROUGHT DEEPENS, MIDWEST DROUGHT LOSSES MOUNTING, NEW ENGLAND DROUGHT WORST IN 27 YEARS, DUST STORM MOVES INTO SOUTHEAST-and the United States Government went on "researching" what to do about it, lrving Krick was a busy man.