Alberta’s Hail Suppression Program Helps Keep Houses And Other Properties Safe

September 15, 2021

Alberta's Hail Suppression Program Helps Keep Houses And Other Properties Safe

Alberta is known as the Hail Alley of Canada. The province has faced major hail storms for years with some hailstones larger than golf balls. Over the years, the frequency of hail storms in the area has increased.

In summer 2020, a total of 24 highly damaging hail events were reported. One particular storm produced hailstones larger than golf balls shredding siding off of homes and smashing car windows. This year, we are expecting the numbers to rise to 40 highly damaging hail storms.

Last year, the storms that hit Calgary and surrounding areas caused over $1.3 billion in insured damage making it the fourth most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history. To reduce the impact and severity of the damage caused by these storms, the insurance industry, with the help of the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society (ASWMS), came up with the Alberta Hail Suppression Project (AHSP).

The program has been running since 1996 with the goal of mitigating the amount of hail damage affecting urban property such as homes and vehicles. If you want to know more about how this project is helping Albertans, keep reading.

Why Do We Need It?

Terry Krauss, project director for the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society, details,

“Hail alley is right here in central Alberta, and that’s why our project is here. Yes, it can hail anywhere in Canada, in every province — but not as frequently, and definitely not as frequent with severe hail.”

He further added,

“The frequency of the storm severity is increasing. There have been studies done indicating that it will continue to increase in the future.”

Alberta faces the highest number of damaging hail storms as compared to all of Canada. Over the years, it has caused immense damage to residential structures, industrial buildings, and vehicles causing great pressure on insurance companies.

Many countries around the world have hail suppression programs in place. Hence, the Severe Weather Management Society was established by Insurance companies in the province to administer the cloud seeding program.

How Are Hail Storms Suppressed?

The process utilizes the cloud seeding concept to break large hailstones into smaller ones. When meteorologists identify a possible hailstorm, a pilot is dispatched into action and treats the clouds with silver iodide smoke particles that are given off by flares.

The silver iodide particles act as artificial ice crystals that freeze up the supercooled water drops causing the clouds to produce a greater amount of small pebble-sized hailstones instead of a smaller amount of large-sized hailstones.

As of now, the organization only has 5 seeding planes. So, if there are a couple of incoming storms around the province, priority is given based on their severity and the population of the community being threatened.

Is Silver Iodide Safe?

Over the years, many concerns over the use of silver iodide in storm clouds have been expressed. The Alberta Severe Weather Management Society states that there are no known adverse environmental effects from cloud seeding. Silver iodide salt is a non-toxic material.

Moreover, the quantity used is very small and the seeding levels are constantly monitored. They are comparable to the natural level of silver iodide found in tap water.

The seeding process does not change the composition of the cloud or make them disappear. Rather, it reduces the size of the hailstones.

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