Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rainmaking

China is getting proactive with the drought going on in northern China.

From Xinhua News:


WUHAN, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- A third air force freighter is to attempt to bring two showers during the coming week to Hubei Province, which is suffering from a devastating drought, said a local meteorological officer Wednesday.

Xu Yonghe, Hubei Weather Modification Office's chief engineer, was equipping the An-26 freighter with artificial rain enhancement facilities at Yangluo Airport in Wuhan City when the reporter spoke to him. The freighter arrived from south China's Guangzhou City on Tuesday evening.

Xu said the facilities included cloud-seeding equipments and a GPS system. The plan is to create a shower between Feb. 12 and 14,and another between Feb. 15 and 17. "They could increase rainfall by 10 to 20 percent."

Read On
In recent days, I've heard a lot of Chinese people talk about getting "artificial rain" to help farmers struggling with the current drought. Not really knowing what artificial rain is, I did a bit of probing into this issue. It turns out rain can indeed be man-induced and I've just been clueless that such things even exist.

Here is an excerpt of an article I found from ThingsAsian on China's practice of inducing rain from 2004:
"The widespread use of this technology in northern China more than anything reflects the prominent shortage of water we have," Hu said. He added chemicals like silver iodine, liquid nitrogen and calcium chloride were being distributed into clouds by airplanes, rocket shells and anti-aircraft guns to build up moisture in the clouds and increase rainfall.

The work aims to enhance or multiply tiny particles of ice in clouds which become the building block for precipitation as they gather moisture and eventually fall out of the clouds as rain, hail or snow.

According to state press reports, from 1995 to 2003 China spent 266 million dollars on rain-making technology in 23 provinces and regions and now boasts some 35,000 people who work in the field.

In 2003 alone, the state spent some 50 million dollars dispersing chemicals into clouds through the use of 30 airplanes, 3,800 rockets and 6,900 high artillery shells.

"Man-made efforts to influence the weather is an important method by mankind to use modern science and technology to prevent and reduce disasters, and is already receiving a high level of importance in our country," Qin Dahe, minister of the State Meteorological Bureau, said earlier this year. Chinese scientists are also researching how to expand the technologies to disperse fog, stop hail from ruining crops and reduce frost and air pollution. Last week, meteorologists in Shanghai announced they would use the technology to induce more rain as a way to cool the city down and avoid the summer spike in electricity demand that has been attributed to the city's air conditioners.

Read On

Looking at the Wikipedia page on cloud seeding, I found that the practice of trying to create rain artificially is not just used by the Chinese. It is also used by the United States. In fact, the practice very long history dating back to the early 1900s.

Most interesting, there are even some interesting conspiracy theories surrounding the practice of cloud seeding:
In 1969 at the Woodstock, various people claimed to have witnessed clouds being seeded by the U.S. military. This was said to be the cause of the rain which lasted throughout most of the festival. This remains one of the many conspiracy theories put forth by members of the hippie movement at the time.
Silly hippies...

If cloud seeding actually works, and there is a lot of dispute whether it does, I suppose it could very well be a good thing. There is something a bit 1984-ish about the whole thing though.

Even if it is creepy that the government could feasibly control whether it rains or not, I hope that right now it can bring rain to Xi'an and relief to the farmers of northern China.

2 comments:

Another American in Xi'an (but wrapping up holiday back in the states before returning) said...

A nice bit of trivia: research the connection between cloud seeding and Kurt Vonneghut.

I actually think the drought has a lot to do with China doing all of that seeding pre-olympics to clean up the polluted skies in Beijing,

You can fool with mother nature, but for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I believe the drought is a result with the party boys wanting to play rainmakers. They got what they wanted, but everything has a price.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, all that Olympic "weather management" is what got us into this mess in the first place. Some people never learn.