There is considerable evidence that, under certain conditions, precipitation from supercooled orographic clouds can be increased with existing techniques. Statistical analyses of precipitation records from some long-term projects indicate that seasonal increases on the order of 10% have been realized. The cause and effect relationships have not been fully documented; however, the potential for increases of this magnitude is supported by field measurements and numerical model simulations. Both show that SLW exists in amounts sufficient to produce the observed precipitation increases and could be tapped if proper seeding technologies were applied. The processes culminating in increased precipitation have recently been directly observed during seeding experiments conducted over limited spatial and temporal domains. While such observations further support statistical analyses, they have to date been of limited scope, and thus the economic impact of the increases cannot be assessed.
Recent experiments continue to suggest that precipitation from single-cell and multicell convective clouds may be increased, decreased, and/or redistributed. The response variability is not fully understood, but appears to be linked to variations in targeting, cloud selection criteria, and assessment methods.
Heavy glaciogenic seeding of some warm-based convective clouds (bases about +10°C or warmer) can stimulate updrafts through added latent heat release (a dynamic effect), and consequently increase precipitation. However, convincing evidence that such seeding can increase rainfall over economically significant areas is not yet available.
Seeding to enhance coalescence or affect other warm-rain processes within clouds having summit temperatures warmer than about 0°C has produced statistically acceptable evidence of accelerated precipitation formation within clouds, but evidence of rainfall change at the ground has not been attained.
Although some present precipitation augmentation efforts are reportedly successful, more consistent results would probably be obtained if some basic improvements in seeding methodology were made. Transport of seeding materials continues to be uncertain, both spatially and temporally. Improved delivery techniques and better understanding of the subsequent transport and dispersion of the seeding materials are needed. Current research using gaseous tracers such as sulfur hexafluoride is addressing these problems.
There are indications that precipitation changes, either increases or decreases, can also occur at some distance beyond intended target areas. Improved quantification of these extended (extra-area) effects is needed to satisfy public concerns and assess hydrologic impacts.
Precipitation augmentation programs are unlikely to achieve higher scientific credibility until more complete understanding of the physical processes responsible for any modification effect is established and linked by direct observation to the specific methodology employed. Continued research emphasizing in situ measurements, atmospheric tracers, a variety of remote sensing techniques, and multidimensional numerical cloud models that employ sophisticated microphysics offer improved prospects that this can be accomplished.