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Fargo company helping South Korea measure, modify weather

Fargo-based Weather Modification customized this King Air 350 with 25 pieces of weather-observation equipment for the Korea Meteorological Administration. WMI's president, Neil Brackin, says the sale promises to be a good foot in the door to the Asian market for his firm. WMI Photo / Special to The Forum1 / 5
The cabin of this King Air 350 turboprop airplane is packed with instrumentation to monitor weather and pollution patterns. It can also be used for cloud seeding. The specially modified plane was sold by Fargo-based Weather Modification to the Korea Meteorological Administration. WMI Photo / Special to The Forum2 / 5
A work station in the cabin of a specially modified King Air 350 turboprop. The plane was sold by Fargo-based Weather Modification to the Korean Meteorological Administration. WMI Photo / Special to The Forum3 / 5
Fargo-based Weather Modification customized this King Air 350 with 25 pieces of weather-observation equipment for the Korea Meteorological Administration. WMI's president, Neil Brackin, says the sale promises to be a good foot in the door to the Asian market for his firm. WMI Photo / Special to The Forum4 / 5
Fargo-based Weather Modification has sold a specially modified King Air 350 turboprop to the South Korean government to track weather patterns and pollution, as well as for cloud seeding, said WMI President Neil Brackin. WMI Photo / Special to The Forum5 / 5

FARGO—Fargo-based-business Weather Modification, Inc. is hoping a sale to the South Korean government will give it a solid foothold in Asia and its specially developed plane may be used during the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Weather Modification last fall delivered a King Air 350 aircraft to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

The King Air—packed with 25 pieces of state-of-the-art monitoring and weather-modification equipment—will be used to track pollution, greenhouse gases, radiation and weather patterns, and in time to seed clouds to produce snow and increase snowpack that feeds water to hydroelectric plants, said Weather Modification President Neil Brackin.

Brackin said Weather Modification got called into the project two years ago.

The completion of the contract, including training for the Koreans, was a rush job to get the project back on track after another supplier failed to get the job done. Brackin calls it an important foot in the door to the Asian market.

"We definitely think of it as a springboard not just to Korea, but to Asia," Brackin said. "We do see future opportunities there, both near- and long-term."

The twin-engine turboprop is the "most capable and broadly equipped aircraft" Weather Modification has provided to date, he said

The company is modifying "similar airplanes for China, right now, and we will be doing more of this work" in Asia, he said. "We definitely see it as a growth area."

The plane is expected to be used for collecting data during the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the North Dakota Trade Office said in a news release.

Brackin said the Koreans had originally hoped to try cloud seeding to improve the snowpack for the Olympics. While that may be tested, the project was too far behind to make operational cloud seeding possible, he said.

A high priority for the Koreans over the next two years will be tracking microdust and particulate pollution, a good share of which is brought by winds from China, Brackin said.

"They have issues with (the) flow of pollution out of China. That's a major focus there," Brackin said.

The Koreans want to study the size and volume of the microdust particles and perhaps pinpoint where the pollution is coming from as they form strategies to protect their people, he said.

"They're looking at this as a significant health issue," he said.

But cloud seeding, something Weather Modification has done for years to help make it rain or snow, is also a priority, Brackin said.

"It's very conclusive and very positive in the effect we can have on increasing snowfall in the higher elevations in the western U.S.," he said.

The Koreans would like to increase snowpack to provide more runoff water for their hydroelectric plants.

"That's a real interest on the peninsula of South Korea," Brackin said.

Brackin said the King Air was delivered in September, and Weather Modification supplied about six weeks of training. The company is not involved in any of the plane's operations at this time, he said.

Brackin praised the assistance of the North Dakota Trade Office.

"From our side, it was very significant for a small business growing here in Fargo," he said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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