3 Interesting Facts About Alberta Hail Suppression
The hailstorm season is upon us in Alberta, so we are re-sharing our yearly post on hail suppression.
I’m sure we all remember the massive hailstorm that hit NE Calgary and surrounding areas on June 13, 2020. It cost an estimated $1.2 billion in damages and was Canada’s 4th costliest natural disaster on record. Due to the extent of damages combined with a shortage of materials and contractors in the pandemic, many property owners were still waiting a year later for their homes to be repaired.
Quite a few years back, several of our Team members were able to visit the Olds-Disbury Airport for a tour on hail suppression. Here’s what we learned:
The tour was put on by Dr. Terry Krauss of the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society. The tour started with a slide show presentation explaining why there is such a huge need for cloud seeding in Alberta, and how the overall process works. Following the slide show, we met with the meteorologists who monitor the weather and track storms and they explained how the radar and tracking system works and about what their responsibilities are. We then had the opportunity to view and hop on board one of the five aircraft they use for cloud seeding.
Following the severe and disastrous September 7, 1991 Calgary hailstorm, the insurance industry began looking at ways to reduce losses caused by hail damage. Hail suppression programs operate successfully in numerous countries around the world. It was decided that this was the type of program Alberta needed. A private non-profit organization, The Alberta Severe Weather Management Society, was established by Insurance Companies to administer the cloud seeding program. The cloud seeding operations are contracted to Weather Modification Canada Ltd.
Cloud seeding is done with flares with the intent to create MORE hail. Here is a brief explanation of how it all works:
The hail suppression project began in 1996 and operates yearly from June to September. Hailstorms are seeded as they develop along the foothills. The current seeding territory runs from High River north to Rocky Mountain House, Bentley and Lacombe. The seeding aircraft, which are equipped with wing flares as well as flares in the belly of the plane, follow the stronger storms as they move off the foothills and towards populated areas. Priority is assigned to storms depending upon two factors: their severity, and the size of the community they are threatening. The hailstorms and cloud seeding aircraft are continuously tracked by radar and satellite.
According to the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society, there are no known adverse environmental effects from cloud seeding, as the silver iodide salt is not a toxic or hazardous material. The amount of silver iodide used is very small relative to the large quantities of water in the storms. As well, silver occurs naturally in Canadian soil and many foods, as well as in very low concentrations in our water supply. Hail and water samples have been collected from seeded storms to test the levels of silver, which were found to be similar to those found in surface and tap water.
Overall, cloud seeding was shown to reduce the severity of losses caused by hailstorms, and as such, the test program has continued past the 5 year testing phase.
It is our understanding that the June 13th, 2020 storm clouds were seeded, but due to the severity of the storm, the hailstorm was still able to produce large tennis-ball sized hail and cause severe damage to property.
For more information about cloud seeding and other weather and environment related programs, please visit the Weather Modification Incorporated website. For a more detailed history on cloud seeding, please click here.
The Costen Insurance Team