While Storm makes changing the weather look easy, in real life, it’s quite a process. In one reportedly hugely successful attempt at artificially altering the weather Chinese weather authorities say they were able to create clear skies over Beijing for a major celebration consisting of tens of thousands of people. As well as further demonstrate the potential of “cloud seeding” on a massive scale while doing so.
Gizmodo reported on the artificial weather alteration in Beijing. Researchers at Tsinghua University in the country’s capital city recently published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science outlining how an extensive cloud-seeding operation executed in the hours leading up to the celebration—marking the Chinese Communist party’s centenary—successfully created clear skies. Along with significantly lower amounts of air pollution.
The weather authorities launched rockets containing silver iodide into the skies prior to the June 30 celebration. Once in the atmosphere the silver iodide acted as particles onto which moisture could cling, thusly increasing the amount of precipitation. Put another way, the silver iodide particles behaved as “ice nuclei” that increased cloud condensation. Hence the “cloud seeding” term. (A diagram showing the process, with a plane instead of rockets, is in the image below.)
It’s unclear to what extent the weather modification increased precipitation, unfortunately. Although authorities were able to able to measure a drop in PM2.5; a toxic air pollutant that reduces visibility and causes the air to appear hazy. The Guardian reports that authorities dropped PM2.5 levels by two-thirds. And that they were able to shift the city’s air quality index from “moderate” to “good” according to World Health Organization standards.
While cloud seeding technology has been around since the middle of the 20th century, China’s only recently begun to spend billions of dollars to develop it. The Guardian reports that Chinese state media says that since 2017 authorities have induced about 233.5 billion cubic meters of artificial rain. Weather authorities say that they’d like to have a “weather modification” system working by 2025. With enough power to modify the weather over a land area the size of India. Which sounds impressive even for a fictional superhero.
Feature image: cattan2011