In Brief
  • China has spent $168 million on cloud seeding technology to hopefully manipulate the weather and combat drought and extreme weather due to climate change
  • Cloud seeding technology has existed for a long time, however because of early false claims and deep-rooted skepticism, there isn't sufficient research to back up the tech

Cloud Seeding

The China Meteorological Administration wants to increase rainfall and snow across 960,000 square kilometers of the country. A more effective way of making this happen that doesn’t involve a ritualistic rain dance? Spending $168 million on cloud seeding technology that they hope will allow them to manipulate the weather.

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Here’s how it works. The money will be invested into four new aircrafts, upgrading eight existing planes, and launching 900 rocket systems that will allow them to sprinkle substances above the clouds that could induce the rainmaking process. These substances range from silver iodide to dry ice. Adding these chemicals into clouds might lower their temperature and speed up the condensation process.

While this method has yet to be scientifically proven, the country claims it has already helped them to increase precipitation by 55 billion cubic meters from 2006 to 2016, especially in the western part of China.

“The […] project is expected to help with “ecological security, water resource allocation, drought fighting and forest fire prevention” in Gansu, Shaanxi, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, all of which are western regions plagued by water shortages.” reports The South China Morning Post.

Make it Rain

Cloud seeding schemes have been around for years. And theoretically, the method makes scientific sense. However, unrealistic claims regarding its success when it was first introduced prompted experiments with cloud seeding to be regarded with apprehension. Through the years, the consensus among weather scientists was that cloud seeding’s positive results had to be supported with greater scientific data. Ultimately, even with advanced tools and techniques, it’s still very difficult to establish whether weather conditions were prompted artificially or naturally-occurring.

However, this lack of concrete evidence hasn’t stopped people from using this weather modification technique. China, for instance, has used the method to ensure weather conditions for major events like the Beijing Olympics. Back in 2008, China launched over a thousand rockets to release silver iodide over the city sky to clear storm clouds and ensure that the international event would remain rain-free.

To that end, they’re now hoping that the same technique will work to address changes in temperature and precipitation caused by climate change, especially in drought-stricken regions, cities where they need to increase rainfall, or in cities suffering from heavy smog where they need rain to clear the air.

There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding cloud seeding, and scientists are still trying to find concrete solutions in the technique. But continued research into the field will indeed prove to be invaluable during a time where countries continue to experience extreme weather events due to climate change.