State's drought is a natural cycle

Last week, a reader told me I should’ve watched the cloud-seeding going on over the Cascades. Intrigued by the statement, I asked how he knew there was cloud-seeding — he said you could see the “chemtrail.”

It sounded a little bit like science fiction, but I did a little research anyway. To my surprise, I found Revised Code of Washington indeed allows cloud-seeding and gives the state Department of Ecology jurisdiction over “weather modification” activities. So, I inquired about related permits.

A spokeswoman for the agency called me back Friday to say the last cloud-seeding permit approved in our state was in 1977. That was a later year in one of the state’s more recent droughts. So, I looked a little further and found that University of Washington was involved in an effort that year to condense cumulus clouds in an effort to squeeze rain out of them.

As some of you may recall, 1976-1977 were some of the driest on record for Washington state. In fact, the snowfall was so low that winter that North Cascades Highway remained open all year.

In the university’s report, the cloud-seeding experiment involved using dry ice — the solid form of carbon dioxide — to cool clouds, cause condensation and generate rain drops. The report showed some experimental success and recommended further study to see how cloud-seeding could be used to dampen future droughts.

But additional cloud-seeding studies never came. And as a result, there hasn’t been any cloud-seeding in our skies since.

That’s not the case to our east in Idaho, where Idaho Power has used cloud-seeding to try to increase snowpack, including an effort just this last winter.

Back to the report, University of Washington researchers also noted something else rather significant — in the decades since the 1950s, Washington state has been much cooler and wetter.

In fact, the report shows that from 1922-1931, precipitation was about 30 percent lower (extrapolated from reports on Seattle precipitation) than it was during 1966-1977. And those years, so far, were drier than the last two.

While I found the research interesting, I figured I wouldn’t be writing about cloud-seeding. But Gov. Jay Inslee’s statements calling this year’s drought the result of manmade “climate change” prompted me to reconsider.

The drought we are experiencing this year is not due to manmade climate change. And it is not due to the carbon emissions emanating from automobiles, homes or businesses in our state. It is part of a natural cycle of heating and cooling that the Earth goes through.

I’m not saying that human lifestyles today don’t have an effect on the environment around us — they do. But they must be considered in concert with the natural heating and cooling of the planet. That used to be taught in schools and colleges.

Before mankind generated carbon emissions, the earth alternated between ice ages and warming cycles in about 100,000-year intervals — 90,000 years in an ice age followed by 10,000 years in a heating cycle. That, too, used to be taught in schools.

I just wish the political class looking for an election handout would stop saying “global warming” and “climate change” are solely the result of mankind.

Enough with falsely claiming this year’s drought — the third in less than 100 years — is a result of how we live, what we drive and where we work.

If the governor is truly looking to make a difference instead of accumulating political handouts, maybe he should heed the advice of the 1977 study:

“The Pacific Northwest should plan for much drier conditions than have been experienced...”

Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at


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