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Humans finally figured out how to make it rain

Cloud seeding, explained. We flew up to see it with our own eyes.

Christina Thornell is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

For decades, drought-stricken areas around the world have practiced “cloud seeding,” a process where chemical flares full of silver iodide are shot into storm clouds to encourage them to rain. But until recently, the science didn’t quite back this practice up. In large part that’s because operational cloud seeding programs don’t have the luxury of conducting controlled tests — they have an obligation to produce as much rain as possible for the people living under the clouds they seed.

But there’s been a breakthrough. In 2017, a major cloud seeding experiment in the mountains of Idaho showed that cloud seeding works: Shooting chemical flares into the clouds does produce more precipitation.

As the world faces an increasing number of heat waves and droughts, banking water is becoming more and more important. And while we don’t know exactly how life-changing cloud seeding will turn out to be, we do know it has the potential to be a tool in our arsenal in the long battle against worsening droughts.

To understand how cloud seeding works and what it’s already doing in Texas, watch this video and take a trip up to the clouds to see it yourself.

This video was made possible by a grant from the BEMC Foundation.

The Future Perfect team at Vox explores big problems and the big ideas that can tackle them. Read more from them on topics ranging from antibiotics to the future of meat and more.

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