The Chinese government is known to be obsessed with controlling every aspect of the country, from its people to traditions and language. And now, the administration has set its eyes on total weather control. Beijing is apparently trying to change the weather in a part of Tibet, which in area equates roughly in size of the state of Alaska.
China and weather modification
China has been dabbling in weather modification technologies for a long time. Way back in 2011, a Reuters video report showed Chinese soldiers firing silver iodide bullets into the sky to induce rainfall and snow.
However, what the Chinese plan to do in Tibet is an entirely different ballgame. The government wants its machines to “create” 10 billion cubic meters of rain in an area covering 620,000 square miles. If the experiment works as projected, Beijing hopes to receive rains that would meet about 7 percent of the country’s yearly water consumption.
The government plans on installing thousands of machines across the Tibetan plateau that will fill the atmosphere with silver iodide particles. Each machine is estimated to create at least a 3-mile long strip of cloud. The silver iodide particles will act as a nucleating point of condensed water.
“In order for water vapor (humidity) in the air to form clouds and eventually rain, it requires a nucleating particle. Typically, this is a tiny particle of dust which en masse produces the clouds we see in the sky. By artificially ‘seeding’ the Tibetan Plateau with silver iodide particles, the Chinese government is inducing the formation of clouds where there weren’t any before. Once the clouds become unstable, this leads to artificially induced rainfall,” according to Forbes.
However, China’s ambition is not without its share of risks. The massive use of silver iodide definitely is a worrying aspect of the project. Silver iodide is known to be harmful to wildlife and fish. Animals might suffer from conditions like cardiac enlargement, degenerative changes in the liver, retardation in growth, and anemia due to consistent exposure to the chemical. In humans, though silver iodide has not been found to be toxic, some studies have concluded that it can cause skin discoloration.
The U.S. Public Health Service believes that the overall negative impact on the environment from silver iodide use is negligible. However, many people are worried that large-scale use of the chemical in cloud seeding could create major disruptions in global weather patterns and cause a number of health issues for living beings.
New technologies in weather modification
Cloud seeding has been the longest used weather modification method. But over the past few years, several new technologies have emerged that promise to modify the weather with greater accuracy. A method that is gaining popularity is cloud ionization.
Cloud ionization is a technique used by Meteo Systems in Abu Dhabi. The company has built five sites in the country, with each site housing 10 emitters. When the ground’s relative humidity exceeds 30 percent, the emitters turn on and release certain particles. These particles attach themselves to the condensation nuclei in the clouds. This results in the formation of water droplets and eventually rain.
Another method to induce rainfall is by introducing electrically charged droplets into a natural cloud. This is believed to aid the coalescence of cloud droplets, resulting in an increased raindrop growth rate and more rainfall.