Would you pay £100,000 to keep the rain away on your wedding day? Luxury holiday company Oliver’s Travels is hoping some couples will. Since January, it has offered an eye-catching new service. For £100,000 – or more – it is offering to harness the cloud seeding powers of science to guarantee “fair weather and clear skies for your wedding day”.
“It’s an idea that has come from customer feedback,” says Natasja Rasmussen, head of customer experience at Oliver’s Travel. “We have been working with a wedding consultant for the last 10 years, sending couples out to luxury villas and chateaus in France and the Caribbean. We’ve had lots of feedback and one of the negatives was bad weather. So we have decided to do something about it.”
To fulfil their “guaranteed” pledge for fine weather, which is only nullified in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, Oliver’s Travel has teamed up with the Texan meteorological contractors Just Clouds which specialise in the uncertain art of cloud seeding. This involves flying through clouds in an aeroplane and lacing them with a compound called silver iodide. Silver iodide acts as a freezing nuclei, a key component in the formation of precipitation. Water vapour molecules collide with it and turn into ice crystals that fall to earth as rain. The theory is that by managing the concentrations of freezing nuclei in a portion of atmosphere, meteorologists can control the levels of rainfall in the landscape below.
Tweaking the atmosphere to bring rain to order may seem so outlandish that it belongs to some dystopian future, but in reality it is nothing new. The science of cloud seeding dates from the forties, and the work of US chemist Vincent Schaefer. In the post-war years experiments in rain creation were rife on either side of the Atlantic. They reached a zenith during the Vietnam war when the US government allegedly conducted their highly classified Operation Popeye, an attempt to extend the monsoon season by cloud seeding in the hope of flushing out the Viet Cong.