Modeled streamflow response under cloud seeding in the North Platte River watershed

Document Type



Severe and more persistent droughts in the arid regions such as the western US have increased the interest in cloud seeding programs or weather modification (WM) operations to increase precipitation. An anticipated increase in precipitation could augment annual and seasonal streamflow and reduce the impacts during dry periods. This paper evaluates hydrological impacts of WM operations in the North Platte River watershed, by utilizing a hydrologic model. The Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) land surface hydrological model is calibrated and validated for the periods of 1950–80 and 1981–2000 respectively, using daily meteorological forcing and monthly streamflow data. Two sets of WM scenarios are developed and forced into the VIC model to quantify the impacts of increased precipitation on streamflow. The first scenario is based on existing WM operations in the State of Wyoming. The second scenario hypothetically apply WM throughout the watershed to identify suitable regions for cloud seeding operations. For the first scenario, an increase of 0.3–1.5% in annual streamflow is observed from model simulations for a 1–5% increase in precipitation. Follow-on scenarios have identified the central-west and south-west regions of the watershed, which consist of a higher coverage of Evergreen Needleleaf Forest, to generate higher streamflow during WM operations. The north-east and north-west regions, which consist of a higher coverage of open shrublands and grasslands, are found to generate lower increases in streamflow during these operations. The observed annual precipitation is higher for central and southern regions when compared to northern regions of the watershed. It can be considered that the simulated changes in streamflow from different regions could also be attributed to variation in annual precipitation distribution within the watershed rather than solely based on cloud seeding operations. For the proposed WM programs or programs that are claimed effective based on precipitation augmentation, the hydrological impacts can be evaluated based on this analysis.


Environmental Sciences | Hydrology | Meteorology | Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology | Water Resource Management


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Publisher Citation

Anil Acharya, Thomas C. Piechota, Haroon Stephen, Glenn Tootle Modeled streamflow response under cloud seeding in the North Platte River watershed Journal of Hydrology, Volume 409, Issues 1–2, 28 October 2011, Pages 305–314 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.08.027