China hopes to tame climate with weather modification

China takes on nature with weather engineering technology

China will invest 199 million yuan (£22.5m) to advance its weather engineering technology to mitigate natural disasters, such as severe drought and rainstorms.

The additional funding, announced on Thursday by China’s finance ministry, follows a string of severe weather events that hit the country this year.

In south and central regions of China, widespread flooding followed by the super typhoon Nepartak has killed at least 237 people in recent weeks, with dozens more still missing. Conversely, north-western parts of the country have been struggling with severe drought. China’s Premier Li Keqiang said the natural disasters have impaired the state’s economy due to the extensive damage to infrastructure, livestock and farmland.

China has been heavily experimenting with weather modification since the 1950s and announced initial plans to combat drought by means of technology earlier this year. Essentially, China wants to control where and when it rains. By 2020, the country’s weather engineers hope to be able to produce 60 billion of cubic metres of on-demand rain in areas suffering from drought each year.

China’s Weather Modification Program, run by the Weather Modification Department of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, enjoyed its time in the spotlight during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The department’s workers managed to provide decent weather for the duration of the sports games. The fact that not a single drop of rain fell during the opening ceremony was celebrated as a major success.

The weather masters use the cloud-seeding technique, whereby rockets and artillery shells are fired into the sky to disperse particles of silver iodide to provide ‘seeds’ for water condensation.

Up to 35,000 people all over China are involved in the Weather Modification Programme. Incidents have been reported in the past of neighbouring regions accusing each other of stealing rain by cloud seeding.

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