Amid droughts, Mexico starts rain-making project

Amid Mexico’s longest drought in recorded history and a historic hot, the Mexican government has begun the most recent phase of a cloud seeding experiment to boost rain.

The research kicked off in July and includes planes flying into clouds to release particles of silver iodide, which, according to the hypothesis behind it, will attract additional water droplets and lead to an increase in the amount of rain that falls as rain or snow.

In Mexico, cloud seeding is “combatting the effects of drought in rural areas and contributing to refilling aquifers,” according to the agricultural ministry, which has been conducting cloud seeding at least once yearly since 2020. Cloud seeding has been done since 2020. The government has declared that the initiative was a huge success, claiming that it was 98% successful and even contributed to the suppression of forest fires in the year 2021.

However, renowned cloud physicists in Mexico have expressed serious scepticism regarding the practicality of the technique, and experts in a variety of professions have cautioned against the use of straightforward solutions to the problems caused by climate change.

“There is no evidence that cloud seeding techniques allow for the increase of precipitation over important economic zones, nor is there certainty about effects outside the targeted zone,” write cloud physicists Fernando Gara Gara and Guillermo Montero Martnez from Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM). “There is no evidence that cloud seeding techniques allow for the increase of rain over important economic zones, nor is there certainty about effects outside the targeted zone.”

Although the Mexican government claimed that cloud seeding in 2021 enhanced precipitation by up to 40% above what was forecasted, scientists note that rain projections are highly changeable and that evidence does not consistently correlate cloud seeding and increases in precipitation. Even though they managed the world’s longest cloud seeding investigation, which lasted from 1948 until 1970, Mexican scientists were unable to come up with definitive results.

According to the cloud physicists’ research, cloud seeding “should only be considered as one element of an integrated strategy for managing water resources.”

The Ministry of Agriculture did not provide a response to the media concerns regarding cloud seeding and the lack of available water.

According to Lvaro Bours Cabrera, president of the Association of Farmers’ Organizations of Southern Sonora (AOASS), farmers in northern Mexico, which is now experiencing “severe drought” as designated by Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua), are open to anything that could bring additional rain. This is according to a statement made by Conagua.

However, we have our doubts, as Bours points out. “We would prefer that the government brought back investment in the irrigation distribution networks in order to both increase efficiency and save water.”

According to Bours, the conclusion of the insurance scheme for farmers against severe weather events that was offered by the agricultural ministry in 2021 has put farmers at the mercy of a climate that is rapidly changing.

Recent events in Mexico, as well as in many other parts of the world, have brought into sharper light the repercussions of climate change that are quickly accelerating. Temperatures in Mexico reached all-time highs during this month, 2.3 degrees Celsius higher than the country’s long-term norms.

The heat killed livestock, which led to an increase in the cost of dairy products and beef in certain regions of the country. It caused firefly populations in forests that are normally humid to decline, which led to a loss of revenue from tourists. Temperatures in Mexicali, Mexico, reached a national record high of 50.2 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). At least 167 people in Mexico have succumbed to their injuries and illnesses as a direct result of the heat. It was the driest June since records began in 1941, with precipitation falling 60 percentage points below average.

“We’re used to heat like that later in the summer, not as early as June,” added Bours. “We’re used to heat like that later in the summer.” “That is quite peculiar. We experienced one of the coldest Junes in our region’s history the year before, which was last year. Each year, the evidence of climate change becomes more compelling.

According to Elda Luyando, a professor of climate change and solar radiation at Unam, Mexico is not well prepared for catastrophic weather occurrences in either its rural or urban areas. Heat islands are formed when urban areas have less green space because more of it has been paved over. Rural areas that are currently using agricultural practices that are not sustainable are in the process of becoming desert wastelands.

We can no longer allow ourselves to be caught off guard by the occurrence of extreme weather occurrences. According to Luyando, “We Need to Have Early Warnings” in Order to Plan for Concerns Regarding Water, Electricity, and Health. “We have to be ready for it because it is going to continue happening,” the speaker said.

Alfonso Cortez Lara, a professor of urban studies and the environment at the Northern Border College (Colef), believes that the most fundamental methods for water conservation are being ignored despite the fact that the climate problem is getting worse and that northern Mexico is still experiencing drought conditions.

According to him, “virtually nothing has changed, or more accurately, what has changed has not had a significant impact” [on the ability to sustainably use water].

Cortez researches the state of Baja California, which receives around fifty per cent of its water from the Colorado River and contains a number of sizable agricultural regions in addition to towns like Tijuana, Mexicali, and Ensenada. According to Cortez, plain answers are important because Mexico’s portion of the Colorado River is going to be reduced more in the near future.

According to him, “if we can improve efficiency in irrigation and water supply systems by 3, 4, or even 5%, we could recover tremendous amounts of water,” and he argues that this is entirely possible.

Cortez says that the easiest solution to the problem of water scarcity is, in addition to making irrigation systems more effective, improving water infrastructure in cities to reduce water loss and better regulating wells to prevent aquifers from drying up. This would be the lowest-hanging fruit.

Instead, according to Cortez, these fundamental improvements are frequently disregarded in favour of “moonshot” ventures such as cloud seeding and desalination plants.

The administration of the state is investing millions of dollars in the construction of new public-private desalination plants.

According to Cortez, desalination plants are not only the most expensive solution, but they are also extremely polluting and energy intensive. “As an alternative, it might be on the list, but it shouldn’t be at the top of the list,” the speaker said.

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