Cloud Seeders Make It Rain

Pilots chase storms to artificially prime clouds to deliver extra rain in drought-stricken Texas.
3:00 | 10/05/12

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Transcript for Cloud Seeders Make It Rain
This year marks the worst drought america has seen in decades, and it's showing no signs of letting up. Over half the country has been affected with the brunt bearing down on the mid and southwest, especially nebraska, kansas, the dakotas and parts of the south. Look at that. Well, in one hard-hit area of texas, some people have grown tired of waiting for mother nature to bring relief and have decided to try to make matters into their own hands. Here's abc's juju chang. Reporter: Craig is flying me to the edge of a violent thunderstorm. You see how nice and crisp the top of that cloud is up there? Reporter: Yeah. But the former commercial pie lont isn't some adrenaline junkie. He's a cloud seater, chasing this storm to squeeze out extra rain for the drought-stricken farm land below. As a pilot going through school, you are taught to avoid thunderstorms. Reporter: This is craig's job. Firing chemicals into the clouds in a controversial attempt to modify the weather. He's literally a rainmaker. That dark, thick cloud over there has lots of moisture in it. It looks heavy with rain. Reporter: Cloud seeding is now getting a closer look, as farmers desperate for solutions endure their fourth month of record-shattering drought, with no end in sight. It's actually the largest drought in half a century. Responsible for rising food prices and record wildfires. It's even suspected to be a cause for the recent surge in cases of west nile virus. So, we came to south texas to find out if cloud seeding can really maximize our most precious resource or if it is just a romantic notion that doesn't hold water. We can't manufacture a cloud. That is just absolute basic. We cannot make it rain if it was not going to rain to begin with. Reporter: Tommy is president of the texas weather modification association. He's quick to explain that he can only enhance the weather, not create it. If you look at the cloud as a factory, we're inducing a lot of raw material into the factory, so that the factory becomes more efficient. Reporter: And more productive? His team of pilots and meteorologists are scanning the skies for the right clouds to feed. Everybody is going to get good rain. After ten bone dry days, a promising cluster of thunderstorms is finally head their way. Whi butch is today's stand-by pilot. He takes the first run. Up in the air, we get a bird's eye view of butch's delicate dance. He's just working the very edge of it. Reporter: And then, butch finds the cloud's sweet spot. Okay, he's fixing to light a flare. Reporter: I see the flare. It looks like he's painting the sky. The flares are shooting millions of silver eye died and calcium chloride particles into the cloud, where they collide with drops of water and ice and produce even more moisture. Then, usually within 20 minutes -- so, what is this white, smoky stuff over here? That's rain. Yeah, that's rain. All this is rain out here. You go out, you seed for a few hours or all day long, really know you did some good. It's a good feeling. Reporter: The radar data collected today adds to a growing body of evidence that cloud seeding works. It can double the amount of moisture in a given cloud and the texas program boasted 12% increase in annual rainfall thanks to seeding. And long-term studying show the chemicals are environmentally safe and can't even be detected in the rainfall. But despite all the data, some of cloud seeding's biggest critics are surprisingly the very farmers who stand to benefit most. This isn't the first drought we've been through and it won't be the last. Reporter: Bill's family has been farming this land for five generations. He and his son brett tell us it's expensive to irrigate 300 acres of crop. All that watering cuts deeply into profit. But they are skeptical that anything short of divine intervention can make more rain. What do you make of the cloud seeding program? Well, when you've been in a drought since '96 and we had one wet year -- is it working? We can't stop or break drought. We just try to put a little more water on the ground. Reporter: And every drop of water, craig explains, helps feed the underground act bier if used to irrigate drops. So, though he can't promise bill and brett more rainy days, he's convinced cloud seeding is helping them in the long run. The local water districts that manage the aquifers believe it is working, too. They pay four cents an acre to keep craig and his team up and We're not making promises we can't keep and we're not making claims we did not do. Reporter: Tommy brushes off critics who say he's playing god. His ideas may be bold, but he says, he never loses sight of what is really in charge. You're not going to beat mother nature. Let's just understand that right off. We work with mother nature. We try to help mother nature. Pick your battles. I wouldn't even fight my own mother. Reporter: For "nightline," I'm juju chang over pleasanton, texas.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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