Indonesia Tries to Control the Weather

Indonesia, like many countries, is reeling from "hundred year" floods and claims it’s being successful in redirecting rain to the ocean, so it won’t hit Jakarta.

The government directed the army to do "cloud seeding" for the next two months, where planes fly through the clouds while they’re still over the ocean, dropping tons and tons of salt. 

Although this method is somtimes used to produce rain in times of severe drought, in this case they are trying to expunge the clouds of rain before they head to land.

"We are mimicking nature. It is easy to make rain in most clouds above the sea. We found out that salt from sea water, which evaporates from the sea, accelerates the rain process because it encourages the cloud particles to adsorb water," Tri Handoko Seto, a top official of the Weather Modification Technical Unit of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, told SciDev.Net.

The government believes the effort is showing success, because they were able to avoid meteorogist predictions of heavy rains and floods from January 26-29.

Not everyone agrees, of course. Maybe the rain wouldn’t have made to Jakarta anyway … who knows?

Seto is convinced, however: "We have conducted an evaluation using the data in our radar device, which records cloud development and movement. From our analysis, cloud seeding contributed to the decrease of rainfall in Jakarta during this period," he told SciDev.Net.

Experiments in cloud seeding have been ongoing for 40 years, but it wasn’t until 2009 when scientists validated that it does indeed produce rain.

Here’s a video on Indonesia’s cloud seeding effort: 

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