Monday, November 02, 2015


I was reading an article on good, old-fashioned clouds in Bloomberg the other day. Real clouds, of The Little White Cloud that Cried variety. You know. The kind of cloud that Johnny Mercer sang about. The sort of cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hill. The kind of cloud Wordsworth wandered lonely as, just before he saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils. The type of cloud that the Stones told us to get off of. (Hey, you.)

Not the new-fangled, ubiquitous cloud where all business and a good bit of pleasure is now conducted.

Nope. The article was about real clouds, specifically the cloud-seeding business. Cloud-seeding is used in agricultural areas, especially those plagued by lack of rain, to see if a bit of precipitation can’t be coaxed out.

Planes are armed with:

…cylinders resembling sticks of dynamite wired to racks on the plane’s wings, 12 on each. The flares are filled with combustible sodium chloride—pulverized table salt mixed with a flammable potassium powder. When the switch is flipped, the end of the flare shoots orange fire and trillions of superfine salt particles are released into the cloud. Water molecules are attracted to salt, so they bond to the particles and coalesce into raindrops. (Source: Bloomberg)

At least that’s the theory. In reality, it’s not a miracle and there are really no guarantees that it’s going to work.

For one thing, you need to have clouds. Firing sodium chloride into the clear blue sky wouldn’t be much help.

But it does work. Sort of:

“There’s little dispute that if you can actually get the seeding material inside the clouds, it will enhance precipitation,” says Dan Breed, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The question is, by how much?” Just as it’s hard to predict the weather, it’s hard to really know if you’ve made it rain or not. Breed’s own research—a nine-year, $14 million government-funded study he completed last year in collaboration with WMI and the University of Wyoming—found that seeding increased snowfall 5 percent to 15 percent from clouds in two Wyoming mountain ranges.

Whatever the doubts, the industry is growing. And will, no doubt, continue to grow as weather becomes wilder and iffier.

Not all the cloud-seeding ventures are devoted to agriculture.

There’s one outfit, Oliver’s Travels, that specializes in luxury travel, including luxury destination weddings.

Since no one would want a nasty rain storm to mar their day of days, Oliver has come up with a solution:

…We can now offer our customers a ‘cloud-bursting’ service that can 100% guarantee fair weather and clear skies for your wedding day! Currently available to customers organising a destination wedding in France (though we’re looking to expand to the UK and Italy if it takes off), the service employs the talents of pilots and meteorologists and takes over three weeks to plan, and uses silver iodide to ‘seed’ the clouds – essentially giving the water vapour something to condense around to produce rain.

Oh, and the costs start at $150K – a steep price to pay on top of what’s a pretty costly affair to begin with. But some brides have become so obsessed with getting hitched on the most perfect of perfect-a-mundo days: perfect church, perfect dress, perfect flowers, perfect venue, perfect table settings, perfect food, perfect wine, perfect wedding dance, perfect band, perfect videographer, perfect cake. Am I forgetting something? Guess my head was in the clouds for a moment there. Make sure to find a groom – perfect or not.

Perfect weather: Oh, why not?

I’m guessing that guaranteeing a perfect day is easier in the south of France, and in Italy, than it will be in the UK. But in France, at least, Oliver’s guarantees its results:

Q: Can success be guaranteed?

A: Yes, success can be guaranteed, however if a natural disaster such as a hurricane were to occur this cannot be controlled.

Wonder if the catastrophic rains that the south of France has been experiencing this month would count as a “natural disaster.”

My guess is that the luxury wedding planners plan for where and when the weather, based on historic patterns, will be the nicest. (There’s a reason for June brides…) If someone – and I seriously doubt there have been any takers – wants to fork over $150K to guarantee good weather, then all Oliver’s out is the cost of their cloud-seeding flight if they have to make good on the guarantee. And if the weather turns out to be perfect, well, $150K minus the cost of the cloud seeding is probably a pretty darned nice profit.

Rain or shine, the bride can swan in to “I’m gonna love you, like nobody loves you, come rain or come shine.” Or maybe “Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather.”

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