IITM scientist Thara Prabhakaran will lead cloud seeding project

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Project CAIPEX will start in first week of June in Solapur

PUNE: When the whole world is facing problems like inadequate rainfall, global warming and shortage of water, cloud seeding projects can provide some relief. However, a detailed scientific study is required to gauge its success and this is being done at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, (IITM) Pune.

Led by a woman scientist Thara Prabhakaran, the cloud seeding project is one of the first detailed scientific study undertaken by IITM which comes under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. 

“The project Cloud Aerosol Interaction and Precipitation Enhancement Experiment (CAIPEX) will work on two different objectives (a) study of cloud and their interaction and (b) cloud seeding,” said Thara while speaking to Sakal Times. Thara is an ‘F’ grade scientist and leading CAIPEX. 

A cloud seeding experiment has been planned in the first week of June in Solapur district which Thara will lead and she will be the first woman in the country to do so. “Let’s first understand how cloud seeding is done in our country. Most of the experiments held ealier are of operational nature, but this is the first time, we will be doing scientific seeding,” she said. 

“We will first study the cloud and would know as how much water does it contain. Not all clouds are rainy. Later, we would check weather conditions before going ahead with the project as conditions matter a lot. Generally, the experiment is done during monsoon as there is ample moisture in the atmosphere,” she added.

“This particular cloud seeding project which we have undertaken in Solapur is spanned over 120 days of monsoon,” she said adding, “We have set up radars at Sinhgad Institute based in Solapur and this radar will monitor a range of 200 km. We will release flares near the cloud base which contain water droplets. The flares burnt the particles. These particles attract water vapour.” 

“An aircraft which will have various instruments on board will go inside the cloud and will monitor rain droplets and cloud droplets. We will measure where exactly the droplets are formed and when do they go down on the surface. Below, we have a rain gauge meters network at 100 points and will measure how much actual rain came down on the surface,” Thara said. 

“Solapur is a rain shadow area and hence, we are conducting the project there. But if the cloud seeding or artificial rain projects are implemented in the catchment area, then, it will benefit a large chunk of people,” she said. 

“Cloud seeding projects started at IITM in the 1970s but as the technology is advancing, more precision has come in. It would take some time to say whether such projects had made any significant progress,” Thara said.

“There is a significant demand from various states for conducting cloud seeding experiments, but with a scientific study, we can be more accurate and precise while actually doing it. The study will also help in making better numerical monsoon models as we have south-west and south-east monsoon cycle in our country,” she said. 

“While conducting the experiment, we choose warmer clouds with the temperature higher than 0 degree Celsius to ensure there will be rain and not ice formation in the cloud,” she said.

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