TECH
23/01/2018 13:47 GMT

Scientists Have Found A Way To Make It Snow Whenever We Want

Never miss a white Christmas again.

Having more snow days might sound like the stuff of nightmares for adults relying on public transport, but that’s exactly what scientists are trying to make happen.

For decades, atmospheric researchers have been exploring ways to effectively make it rain or snow on demand - and not just so we can have a white Christmas - but as a potential manmade response to environmental problems like drought and crop failure.

While on paper the idea seemed flawless, until now, it hasn’t worked outside of a lab.

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Cloud seeding, where scientists ‘sow’ clouds with small silver iodide chemical particles to make them rain or snow, was first proposed by Bernard Vonnegut in the 1940s.

Vonnegut found that silver iodide can cause clouds of water vapour to build a ‘scaffold’ like structure, on which water molecules can align themselves into a crystalline structure. In other words, they freeze.

So if you were to distribute the silver iodide into supercool clouds above the Earth, they are then forced to follow the natural weather cycle and distribute snow and rain.

While the science seemed sound, a lack of highly technical instruments meant that in reality it was hard to measure the success of the silver iodide.

Not to mention the weather is by its very nature, unpredictable and full of variables. Not exactly the best conditions for a scientific experiment.

Although the technique has been used by governments like China - who accidentally closed 12 motorways in 2009 with abnormally heavy snowfall after seeding clouds in Beijing - the proof was still patchy.

Until now, where scientists in Idaho have used newer technology to track their supercharged snowfall.

Using two aircraft, they dropped some iodide in canisters and others was streaming from the wings. Within a couple of hours they noticed that snowflakes had grown from a few microns in diameter to 8 millimeters in diameter - heavy enough to settle.

Katja Friedrich, atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, told Science magazine: “We were super, super excited. Nobody had seen that before.”