Cloud Seeding in Malaysia

Several areas in the Klang Valley, an area in Malaysia comprising Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs and adjoining cities and towns in the state of Selangor, received much-needed rainfall yesterday, thanks to the success of a cloud seeding operation by the Meteorological Department (MMD) and Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
Cloud seeding is a technique whereby it’s possible to induce rain and snow after which clouds can break up and disappear, suppress hail, and clear up patches of fog usually by dropping suitable particles into clouds containing cooled water in an attempt to cause them to dissipate, modify their structure, or alter the intensity of associated phenomena, such as wind speed or hail.
Here’s how it works: Rain starts as tiny droplets of water suspended in clouds. Then the droplets clump together into bigger drops, or freeze together into bigger crystals. Once the drops or crystals are big and heavy enough, they fall out of the sky. The frozen drops can melt on the way down, becoming rain, or they can fall to the ground as snow. Cloud seeding aims to speed up this process by helping droplets to clump or freeze together when they otherwise wouldn’t.
The operation in Malaysia was led by the department’s atmospheric science and cloud seeding division, with a TUDM aircraft used to transport four 1,000-litre tanks of water containing 150kg of salt each. The salt solution was then sprayed at the base of the identified clouds, and the salt particles in the solution were carried upwards by upward currents of warm air called thermals.
“Through cloud seeding, we are actually accelerating the process of rainfall production as well as increasing the amount of rainfall. We estimate it will take 15 minutes to half an hour for rain to fall after the solution is sprayed,” Meteorological Department national weather centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said.
Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah said the cloud seeding operation focused on areas that had a suitable formation of cumulus clouds in the Klang Valley and not just near catchment areas.
“We hope residents in the affected areas will be pleased with the results, as the rainfall amount is forecast to be about 15 per cent more than the usual amount we get in March,” he said.
Results were seen as quickly as 30 minutes after the operation as, luckily for the Malaysians, rain fell in parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur just hours after the Malaysian authorities carried out cloud seeding, with residents welcoming the opening up of the heavens. The rain finally came after several weeks of dry weather, which led to water rationing for two million people. Not only did the rain help to improve visibility from the haze, but it also helped to ease the water rationing woes and troubles in Malaysia.
This incident has greatly emphasised our need to save water. We have not been hit with the crisis of having to ration water yet, but who knows when our taps will run dry? Maybe in 2061, when the Singapore and Malaysia agreement expires? Who knows what might happen in the near future? Who knows when all four of Singapore’s National Taps are unable to supply us with any water one day? What will happen then?
Hence, I feel that we should do our part to help to conserve water, which is a precious resource, so that everyone can enjoy the water supply for all uses, whether it be for industry, for living, or for survival. Water is life, after all.

Germaine Lee-1T


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