China’s State Council has announced plans to develop and expand its experimental weather modification program over the next five years to cover more than 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million square kilometers). It is an area more than 1.5 times the size of India. All of this will be open to artificial precipitation (snowfall) while a smaller region of about 224,000 square miles (580,000 square kilometers) to suppressed hail. The country aims for weather modification to reach a world-advanced level in terms of technologies, operations and services by 2035.
The statement says:
China to have developed weather modification system by 2025, with breakthroughs in basic research [and development] in key technologies, steady improvements in modernization and refined services, marked improvement in overall security risk prevention, and optimization of systems and policy environment.
The statement concludes by saying that the program will help with agricultural production, disaster relief, emergency responses to grassland and forest fires, droughts and abnormally high temperatures.
Weather modification is expected to step up its support service in the following key areas: estimating disasters such as drought and hail, and associated zoning work in agricultural production areas; standardized work plans for areas requiring ecological protection and restoration; and major emergency responses to events such as forest or grassland fires, unusually high temperatures or droughts.
Hail suppression has reduced hail damage by 70 percent in a key agricultural area in China’s western Xinjiang region, according to Xinhua, a state-run news agency.
Changing the weather is nothing new. The concept of cloud seeding – a way to artificially induce precipitation – has been around for decades and China has been experimenting with it for several years already. The method involves misting clouds with silver iodide, which condenses around supercooled water drops that don’t grow efficiently enough to become raindrops. This causes the particles to become heavier, turn into a raindrop or snowflake, and fall as precipitation.
China explored cloud seeding in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to ensure a rain-free event. Beijing is also known for having beautiful clear skies when a crucial political meeting takes place – due to nearby factory closures and weather control.
Chinese scientists are also working on a $19 million project called Tianhe (meaning Sky River) – the world’s largest and most ambitious artificial rain experiment to date. It involves using satellites and rockets to divert excess water vapor above the Yangtze River basin to the drier parts of the country.
Some experts have speculated that when China begins to experience the effects of climate change, it will adopt even more ambitious geoengineering projects. For example, the country may turn to seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles to reduce temperatures. Although the idea is still just a theory, no one knows what might happen if the technique were employed. This could have significant unintended consequences.
Dhanasree Jayaram, climate scientist at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Karnataka, India, said:
Without regulation, the efforts of one country could affect other countries. While China has yet to show signs of “one-sided” deployment of geo-engineering projects on the ground, the scale of its climate change and other massive engineering projects, including mega-projects. -dams (such as the Three Gorges), suggests that China is willing to deploy significant large-scale geoengineering systems to combat the impacts of climate change and achieve its Parisian goals.
From a certain point of view, this seems essentially harmless and potentially very useful in avoiding bigger problems. But on the other hand, it could be a global danger. Also, neighboring countries have speculated that weather modification could be used to steal rain or as a tool of war, giving troops an advantage over their opponent. It’s a controversial practice, that’s for sure.