Clear skies main obstacle to cloud seeding: Chance

26 May, 2004 10:00 PM

AGRICULTURE Minister Kim Chance has backed new research into cloud seeding, but said he didn't believe the technology would deliver significant benefits to WA farmers.

"I'm happy for us to keep on observing research and perhaps even to consider some further research of our own," Mr Chance said.

"But I would certainly be very hesitant to hold it out as a mainstream potential benefit for agriculture."

Responding to Farm Weekly's recent series on cloud seeding, and the possible benefits for WA, Mr Chance said the biggest hurdle to overcome was during drought years, when there weren't many clouds about.

He said most of the WA wheatbelt was around the 30° latitude mark, whereas more successful areas, including Tasmania, were around the 40° mark.

"We have a particularly Mediterranean environment and our droughts are marked by an absence of clouds," Mr Chance said.

"The type of weather we get in June and July is an endless succession of high pressure zones moving through."

But cloud seeding proponents believe the technology can be effective in non-drought years as a way to get more rain out of existing clouds, which they believe have become polluted, and increase precipitation averages which have fallen dramatically since the mid-1970s.

"There is a possibility in some years that you'll get some cloud events that are seedable, but that won't help in a drought year when there are no clouds," Mr Chance said.

"And if there is new technology, perhaps we do need to look at it again, but I would certainly not promote cloud seeding as a possible answer to our usual drought pattern."

Mr Chance was also concerned that too much rain could be generated in some circumstances.

"You have to look at whether there is a net economic advantage in increasing the rainfall because I know it seems strange now, but there are times when you can have too much precipitation and it actually starts to have a negative affect in an economic sense," he said.

But Mr Chance said he was prepared to re-visit cloud seeding and what research was being done in the eastern states and overseas if he could be convinced it could make a difference.

"I've got an open mind on it but I wouldn't want to raise people's hopes that it would make an enormous amount of difference because I don't think it will," he said.


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