In an effort to gain control over the fickle forces of a very recalcitrant Mother Nature, the Weather Modification Department, a division of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Science is a governmental program that employs and trains 32,000 to 35,000 people across China, some of them farmers, to handle anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers. They are paid $100 a month for their services.
Cloud seeding is a process in which China has invested quite heavily. It involves launching heavy weapons to disperse pellets containing silver iodide into clouds. This is believed to concentrate moisture and cause rain. Cloud seeding requires much equipment, utilizing more than 12,000 anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers in addition to about 30 planes.
The Chinese have been conducting serious weather research for the last fifty years. With a population of more than 1.3 billion that requires vast amounts of water, cities like Beijing suffer from terrible smog and air pollution, and rain signifies one non-invasive solution to the problem. Cloud seeding is China’s attempt to produce rain for its many farmers, delay drought and replenish the country’s water basins.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese Government launched thousands of rockets containing silver iodide pellets to curb rainfall and smog for the opening and closing ceremonies. The Beijing Weather Modification Office spent a lot of time researching how to prevent rain in the city on Aug. 8, 2008, and the government even guaranteed clear skies for the event! They were sure they could pull it off by tracking cloud formations and causing rain in the days leading up to the Olympics.
Cloud seeding definitely helps a rainstorm to develop by providing “nuclei” around which water condenses. These nuclei can be salts, calcium chloride, dry ice or silver iodide, which the Chinese prefer because its form is similar to ice crystals. Cloud seeding is done mostly in northern China, a region blessed with little rain. China is spending $60 to $90 million a year on weather modification, in addition to the $266 million spent from 1995 to 2003. The government plans to produce 50 billion cubic meters of rain a year through the practice.
Good luck, China.
Maybe try investing in the manufacture of more umbrellas and rainwear too?
What do YOU think?