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Amanda Little

Yes, We Can Make It Rain. But It Won’t Solve Drought.

Despite making great strides, cloud-seeding technology is still a niche industry and no miracle solution.

Limited potential.

Limited potential.

Photographer: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

Grappling with their worst heatwave on record, Chinese officials are scrambling to significantly expand the country’s “cloud-seeding” programs — a controversial method of stimulating clouds to make them rain.

This is understandably a moment for desperate measures. China’s mighty Yangtze River has slowed to nearly a trickle in some stretches, destabilizing the country’s hydropower production and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without safe drinking water. But it’s also time to set the record straight on cloud seeding — a practice that’s rapidly expanding in the water-scarce American West.