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Researchers develop cloud-seeding drones to automatically manipulate weather

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(NaturalNews) Scientists are now planning to use drones to carry out weather manipulation, a practice that was long described as being nothing more than a "conspiracy theory," despite a treaty signed by the U.S. in 1977 prohibiting the tactic from being used militarily.

A team of meteorologists with Nevada's Desert Research Institute in Reno are creating a "first-of-its-kind drone to take the seeding process high in the sky," according to a recent report by CBS San Francisco.

The drones are expected to carry out "cloud seeding," a practice that can reportedly generate 10 percent more rain during a storm, a controversial operation that some say is toxic to humans and wildlife.

'Pineapple Express' not enough to overcome 2014 drought

Researchers hope this new method will help California make a comeback following one of the worst droughts in history. Despite December being a wet month due to the "Pineapple Express," a tropical "atmospheric river of moisture," 2014 was the state's third driest in 119 years, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

While recent amounts of rain and snow were certainly helpful, it wasn't enough to bring the state out of its catastrophic drought; in fact experts say California needs "3 straight winters of subnormal precipitation... to fully recharge the reservoir levels and subsoil moisture back to normal," reports thinkprogess.org.

A drought map provided by U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 100 percent of the state is still categorized as "abnormally dry," with about 98 percent in "moderate drought" zone or worse.

Drones to insert hazardous chemical into the sky in hopes of producing more rain

While weather manipulation technology has been around since the 1940s, planes have been seeding clouds for about 60 years. "Planes can produce an additional 1 billion gallons of water for every 25 to 45 hours in flight but manned aircraft need to stay above the clouds, for safety reasons," said meteorologist Jeff Tilley.

"Drones can fly through the clouds and can stay aloft longer, producing even more precipitation for communities devastated by drought." Tilley says he hopes "his cloud-seeding drone will begin soaking western communities soon."

Scientists say they can only squeeze extra water out of existing storms, but cannot yet create the storms themselves. "There's only so much we can do," said Tilley. "If we could make the clouds appear out of the thin air, we would, but we can't do that yet."

One of Tilley and his team's five ground-based cloud seeding towers sits at the summit of the Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, north of Lake Tahoe, hidden in plain view where the chairlift drops off.

The large metal bunker with a chimney on top releases tiny particles of silver iodide, a chemical that's rated by the Office of Environment, Health and Safety, UC Berkeley as being an "[I]norganic, hazardous chemical that pollutes water and soil."

Cloud seeding chemical leaches into groundwater, streams, soil and the roots of plants of plant systems

While researchers say seeding clouds with silver iodide enhances rainfall without negative consequences, studies show humans can experience GI tract irritation, discoloration of the skin and renal and pulmonary lesions when exposed to low levels. Higher amounts can cause shock, enlarged heart, respiratory depression and death, among other health complications, according to silvermedicine.org.

Currently, nine other western states are using cloud seeding, with water agencies in California reportedly spending $3 to $5 million a year on the practice, boosting runoff by a mere 4 percent.

Despite the potential environmental effects, cost seems to be of the most concern. Tilley says while 4 percent may not seem like much, every drop counts. He also believes that using drones could cut cloud-seeding costs in half, as they require less fuel than manned planes.

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