Is it time now to seed the clouds and 'force' the rain?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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During one of the worst periods of drought in Jamaica during the 1970s, the authorities resorted to cloud-seeding, in order to 'force' the rain to fall.

Clouding seeding, broadly defined, is a form of weather modification to increase precipitation by 'shooting' certain substances into the clouds from aircraft. This can produce rain and snow.

Admittedly, cloud-seeding has been dogged by controversy in that there are those who believe that once the clouds are seeded, there is no guarantee of more rainfall or that it is not possible to control the amount of rainfall. Scientists disagree among themselves about the use of the chemicals like silver iodide or potassium iodide to

seed the clouds because of possible negative effects on humans and the environment.

But with improved technology and research over the years, cloud-seeding is no longer considered a science that is on the periphery and is now a mainstream tool to improve rain precipitation. It is widely used across the world.

The press conference called by Acting Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier on Tuesday was as much about claims of an impending food crisis as it was about the stubborn drought, particularly on Jamaica's south.

We take Mr Kellier's assurances that there is no looming crisis until we see evidence to suggest otherwise. In fact, we are disappointed to see that the Opposition spokesman on agriculture, Mr J C Hutchinson is using the food/drought situation as a political football.

There is nothing to be gained from politicking about something that affects us all in this critical way. If indeed Mr Hutchinson's remarks that there is an acute food shortage is true, then the country would have no option but to import more food. That carries with it serious implications for the local farming sector, jobs and the use of foreign exchange and attendant devaluation.

That is why food importation must be a last resort and therefore we would suggest a bipartisan effort to assess our food supplies prior to any opening of the import flood gates. We believe that the Opposition is still in support of the buy Jamaican campaign.

Still, while we accept Mr Kellier's assurances, we were not comforted by his off-the-cuff remark that the drought will not last forever. The point is that we don't know how long it will last. Therefore we should be spending a lot of energy thinking about what we should do, in the eventuality that the drought prolongs and gets worse.

We like the suggestion from the National Water Authority's Basil Fernandes that a way be found to bring water from the north where there is no drought to the badly hit south. This is, of course, a medium to long term project.

Hence, we suggest that it is time to revisit the idea of cloud-seeding, especially in the region of the Mona and Hermitage dams. When we did it before, Jamaica was not washed away.




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