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When Cloud Seeding Goes Wrong: Cement Chunk Falls From the Sky

Cloud seeding can be controversial
The Russian Air Force, during a mission to clear the skies of potentially rain-filled clouds, dropped a mixture of silver iodide, liquid nitrogen and cement powder in an attempt to seed the clouds. This form of climate modification is common practice in Russia, when attempting to engineer dry days on public holidays and special events in Moscow. However, during the cloud seeding operation last week, cement dropped from one of the aircraft failed to fragment when falling through the air, falling as a solid mass, crashing through the roof of a Moscow suburban home…

Cloud seeding is a highly controversial method used to modify local climates. Russia and China are two large nations that believe various methods of cloud seeding are effective in deflecting storms and preventing rain clouds from precipitating on events requiring dry weather. Silver iodide, dry ice and various salts are used as artificial particles acting as water droplet nuclei. Dropping these particles can trigger precipitation, but any form of climate modification can be unpredictable, and in some cases, dangerous.

One such unpredictable outcome from last week’s “routine” cloud seeding effort by the Russian Air Force above the skies of Moscow resulted in something bigger than rain hitting the ground. A pack of cement (with rain-making properties I’m guessing) was dropped from one of the 12 seeding planes with a cocktail of silver iodide and liquid nitrogen. The point? To clear the skies above Moscow in preparation for a dry national holiday on June 12th known as Russia Day. The result? The cement mix failed to break apart, creating the desired cloud of dust after it was released. Instead it maintained its shape (and presumably its cement-like hardness) and dropped to the ground like a stone rock.

A pack of cement used in creating good weather in the capital region failed to pulverize completely at high altitude and fell on the roof of a house, making a hole about 80-100 cm (2.5-3 ft).” – Naro-Fominsk Police when talking with agency RIA-Novosti.

Fortunately no one was hurt, but the Russian homeowner is less than impressed. He has shunned the Air Force’s offer of $2,100 to fix the roof and is suing for “moral suffering” damages instead. The Air Force claims this was a freak accident and unheard of in the 20 years of cloud seeding operations.

Sources: Reuters, Environmental Graffiti

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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Al Hall June 19, 2008, 6:36 PM

    Kinda close to home when we surfing this site and thinking about the universe.. But it’s news, I guess.. **it happens.. At least nobody was hurt.

    P.S. For those who have it, on Sunday (22 June), the Science Channel is having an all day Cosmos marathon.. In HD!.. :-)
    Although I don’t agree with everything Sagan (and all others) say, it still is a “must see” in my opinion. :-)

  • Tlang June 19, 2008, 6:42 PM

    Did it rain?

  • Pop June 20, 2008, 5:55 AM

    Yeah, that’s what they tell people. Cement indeed! Probably some form of birth/mind control agent. Maybe something to make redheaded people have light skin and freckels too. I’ll even go as far as some airborne agent to make Russians drink more vodka. Conspiracy rains from the sky. W00tz

  • Anne June 20, 2008, 3:43 AM

    Who, in the right state of mind, would deliberately throw cement in the atmosphere? Seriously… cement?

    Thanks Al for the tip, really looking forward for 22nd June :)

  • Wes June 20, 2008, 4:50 AM

    Those Russians are crazy !!!

    I was actually in St. Petersburg once during a major sporting event, and I experienced first-hand how planes flew over the city the evening before and sprayed stuff. I realized later that it was cloud seeding.

  • Laszlo June 20, 2008, 6:10 AM

    California and Florida are famous for their toxic ‘Chemtrails’. See it on YouTube. Apparently, the military bases pump out this soapy film which sticks to peoples cars, trees, clothing, etc as part of their atmos control testing. Whether they’re modifying weather or trying to enhance radar stealth nobody knows yet.

  • Laszlo June 20, 2008, 6:24 AM

    PS. That’s a Barium Sulphate mixture.

  • Terragen June 20, 2008, 11:26 PM

    Everything humans do to try and modify nature is just going to whack us in the ass in the future. Busy-body idiots we are.

  • kymaree June 21, 2008, 9:31 AM

    I sculpt with cement, by itself an also with a mixure of paper pulp and acryilics. Working with this gear you get to know the medium very well. I would not be by myself in saying any persons scattering this stuff deliberately for whatever reasons needs to look at the MSDS. So. Please tell me. Where are the adults?

  • Student October 23, 2008, 1:45 PM

    Cloud seeding is unnatrual. I hate it.
    P.S
    Already** LOL

  • Student November 10, 2008, 1:56 PM

    Yeh I could believe this. We are researching and debating about this in my science class. Im on the con side, so this most likely could be a posibility. It might not be an occasionaly thing and probably won’t happen again but hey, I believe it.

  • Another Student February 21, 2009, 4:59 PM

    Really? I am thinking about using cloud seeding as the topic for an upcoming research paper. What sorts of debates are used?

  • amanda March 9, 2009, 12:21 PM

    i think cloud seeding is very exspendes of but it is very cool

  • automotive jacks March 14, 2009, 5:39 AM

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    p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where have you got it from?

  • Rich April 8, 2009, 1:35 PM

    This is nothing, read the idiocy below.

    Obama Looking At Cooling Air To Fight Warming
    Obama Science Adviser: Global Warming So Dire, We May Need To Tinker With Earth’s Atmosphere

    WASHINGTON, Apr. 8, 2009

    (AP) The president’s new science adviser said that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing drastic options to cool Earth’s air.

    John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

    As he put it: “It’s got to be looked at. We don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.”

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