Fact Check

Government Buries Weather Modification News?

The government didn't quietly admit to modifying weather in California; cloud seeding is a well-documented effort to counteract the effects of drought (and isn't related to chemtrails).

Published Mar 17, 2016

The government buried news of weather modification in the classifieds section of a small newspaper.
What's True

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works (DPW) placed classified ads in the Pasadena Star News in early 2016 notifying locals about upcoming cloud seeding equipment installations.

What's False

The only way residents could learn of the program was via a hard to find classified ad; the media ignored the announcement; cloud seeding is a shadowy and sinister form of weather modification somehow linked to chemtrails.

On 12 March 2016, the web site Wakeup World (described as news pertaining to the "energetic organism we call Earth, the Universe and the Multiverse") published a blog post claiming the American government "quietly" admitted to engaging in "weather modification" activities in a notice buried in the classifieds section of a small California newspaper:

... the level of propaganda and indoctrination that the average American must wade through in order to get the smallest amount of Truth is staggering. We have reached a point in which Americans are so overwhelmed with the current battle taking place between the Alternative News community and mainstream media, and its barrage of contradicting “Facts,” that most have simply chosen to completely remove themselves from any critical thinking. Even when the government itself reveals an age-old lie to be true, most are so indoctrinated with the idea of the “conspiracy” that they convince themselves that the revelation is just another trick of those deceptive “conspiracy theorists.” ... A perfect example of this is weather modification.

Weather modification, geoengineering, chemtrails; these are all topics that if brought up in most circles today, would garner the speaker the telltale look that most Truthers have become all too familiar with. It is a look that has been ingrained into all who have opted to cast aside their critical thinking for their comforting daily lie. There is a herd mentality that has been established that causes even those on the fence or those interested in “outside the box” ideas, to fall in line while surrounded by the docile mass. So when the government recently released a “Notice of Intent” on page 11 of the Pasadena Star Classifieds, announcing their plan to carry out weather modification in Los Angeles County, it became clear that those blank stares should be turned inward, for some much needed self-reflection and re-evaluation.

The post included photographs of early 2016 classified ads placed by Los Angeles County's Department of Public Works (DPW) in the Pasadena Star News:


The blog went on to assert that the odd venue for announcement was clearly an attempt to bury the information from the public, particularly sharper folks who'd kept an eye on such developments over the years:

Obviously the appropriate area of the paper to release such a controversial topic is the classifieds, where it will no doubt be noticed by all. Sarcasm aside, it is clear they did not want anyone to take notice of this declaration of weather manipulation that has been fervently denied up until last year.

However, the Los Angeles DPW devoted an entire page to the activity (cloud seeding) mentioned in the classified advertisement [PDF]. That document explained cloud seeding was an anti-drought measure practiced intermittently for more than half a century in Los Angeles:

Yes, since in the 1950’s the County of Los Angeles has conducted cloud seeding activities in order to augment local water supplies. When there is abundant rain or major fires affect the targeted watersheds, cloud seeding is temporarily halted.

Public Works last had a cloud seeding contract in 2009 with North American Weather Consultants, Incorporated.

Also addressed was the classified ad, which was not new in 2016:

A Public Notice of the Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration (DMND) was published in the Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Pasadena Star News, and San Gabriel Valley Tribune newspapers on July 24, 2009. Copies of the DMND were also sent to 8 cities and 11 local libraries ... A Notice of Intent was published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star, and Los Angeles Daily newspapers from January 22 through February 5, 2016.

The FAQ also discussed concerns about safety and chemtrails, noting that data was collected on cloud seeding from the 1950s onward. Regarding chemtrails, the DPW said:

There is no evidence of any connection between cloud seeding and chemical trails (chemtrails). Atmospheric scientists use the term “contrails” which are defined as trails of condensed water vapor created by an engine at high altitudes. These trails are the result of normal emissions of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and some carbon-containing particulates. Contrails are normally observed on otherwise clear days, when cloud seeding would not be conducted. Cloud seeding sources do not produce such visible clouds.

Per the original blog post (which gained additional traction via the unreliable Facebook page "The Mind Unleashed"), government officials sought to hide the cloud seeding initiative by placing news of it in a single classified ads section. However, the DPW stated that the same ad appeared in multiple Los Angeles-area newspapers.

First, the story wasn't restricted to the classifieds. On the same date the blog post was published warning of this secret classifieds-only initiative CBS News covered cloud seeding in Los Angeles, as did KNSD and Gizmodo (on 9 March 2016); The Weather Channel (on 10 March 2016) KCAL (on 11 March 2016); and the Los Angeles Times (all the way back on 8 March 2016).

Moreover, the claim that the government "fervently" denied such programs until the 2016 classified ad appeared was easily proved false. The National Center for Atmospheric Research and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (NCAR and UCAR) published a fact sheet in 2008Scientific American and U.S. News and World Report covered cloud seeding in 2009ABC News reported on it way back in 2002, and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) released a fact sheet in 2001. It would be difficult for anyone with a consistent interest in cloud seeding to miss news and information published widely over the years; the conspiracy's core claims relied on an audience that was to-date unfamiliar with the practice wholesale.

So while it was true Los Angeles' DPW announced cloud seeding plans via classified ads in early 2016, the disclosure was neither "quiet" nor novel in 2016; cloud seeding in the area occurred intermittently and openly beginning in the 1950s. Moreover, the 12 March 2016 blog post claiming that the program was a subtle admission (validating long-held suspicions) neglected to mention widespread media coverage across several high-profile sites in the days prior to its publication. Focusing on one of several classified ads provided the inaccurate impression that the program was largely secretive in nature, but information was easily obtained via both the DPW's web site and in contemporaneous news coverage.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.