Nice thought, but seeding won't work for smoke

I have a question for you Since You Asked sleuths. This smoke is really getting me down. And I was wondering if there isn't something simple that can be done about it. They can seed for the fog. Why can't they seed for the smoke and make it go away?

— Mabel H., Gold Hill

While singing a heartfelt rendition of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," we, too, feel your (cough) pain, Mabel. We'd like these nasty burning tree fumes to go away, too. And so we were happy to take your query to Medford airport Director Bern Case.

But, alas, the physics that work for cloud seeding do not apply for smoke disbursement, Case said.

When the fog settles in around the airport, and the temperatures fall to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or so, a helium balloon is set aloft to drop ground dry ice into the atmosphere, he said. The dry ice particles suck up the moisture in the air and fall to the ground.

The fallout from the icing, which some like to call "snow," clears the fog from a 15- to 20-acre bull's-eye around the airport, allowing planes to land and life for travelers to continue uninterrupted. The process is size-limited and expensive, Case said.

"But it's worth it because we don't have to cancel flights," he said.

Unfortunately, conditions just aren't right when it's sweltering outside. Seeding doesn't work when temperatures are above freezing. And, even if it did work, the massive area that would need to be seeded would make it cost-prohibitive.

"It would be way beyond our ability to clear an area this large," Case said. "We'd only be able to clear a small area, and it would quickly backfill in."

But don't be too discouraged, Mabel. And please keep noodling. Maybe you'll come up with something that will work. Personally, we're wondering if you have a line on several thousand humongous fans that could be placed at the perimeters of the entire Rogue Valley.

"I wish there was a way to seed this smoke," said Case. "I'd be a rich man."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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