As El Nino looms, cloud seeding gets tailwind

Tue Jul 7, 2015 8:59pm GMT

On a far smaller scale, the government in the Philippines, one of the world's biggest rice consumers, is spending a record 15 million pesos ($330,000) this year on cloud-seeding operations and could allocate another 15 million pesos in the face of El Nino, which can bring crop-damaging dry weather to many regions.

"We of course don't want to be caught unprepared, especially now that weather experts are predicting a prolonged El Nino," said Silvino Tejada, director of the Philippines Bureau of Soils and Water Management.

The cost of cloud seeding has traditionally been one of the main hurdles to usage. Fuel costs are often the biggest drag on budgets, researchers said, with some seeding operations often requiring multiple flights.

But the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute has recently started testing drones that could be used in cloud seeding that it says could cut costs substantially. Drones would also be able to fly closer to mountains, where clouds offer the best potential for seeding.

Back in Tasmania, Nebel is busy, with 10 seeding operations so far in the season that runs from May to October, more than double the number at the same point in 2014.

That water falls into irrigation channels and onto pasture and feed crops, helping boost the state's dairy sector, where milk production is up about a tenth so far this season.

($1 = 45.1350 Philippine pesos) (Additional reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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