China to expand weather modification program to cover 5.5 million square kilometers

According to a statement from the State Council, China will have a “developed weather modification system” by 2025, thanks to breakthroughs in basic research and key technologies, as well as improvements in ” global prevention against security risks”.

Over the next five years, the total area covered by artificial rain or snowfall will reach 5.5 million km², while more than 580,000 km² (224,000 sq mi) will be covered by snow suppression technologies. hail. The statement added that the program will help with disaster relief, agricultural production, emergency responses to forest and grassland fires and the management of unusually high temperatures or droughts.

As a concept, cloud seeding has been around for decades. It works by injecting small amounts of silver iodide into very moist clouds, which then condense around the new particles, become heavier, and eventually fall as precipitation.
A study funded by the US National Science Foundation, published earlier this year, found that “cloud seeding can increase snowfall over a wide area if atmospheric conditions are right”. The study was one of the first to definitively establish that cloud seeding worked, as previously it was difficult to distinguish precipitation created as a result of the practice from normal snowfall.
That uncertainty hadn’t stopped China from investing heavily in technology: between 2012 and 2017, the country spent more than $1.34 billion on various weather modification programs. Last year, according to the official Xinhua news agency, the change in weather conditions reduced hail damage by 70 percent in the western region of Xinjiang, a key agricultural area.
And while other countries have also invested in cloud seeding, including the United States, China’s enthusiasm for the technology has created some concern, particularly in neighboring India, where the Agriculture is heavily dependent on the monsoon, which has already been disrupted and has become less predictable as a consequence of climate change.
India and China recently clashed along their common – and hotly disputed – border in the Himalayas, with the two sides engaging in their bloodiest clash in decades earlier this year. For years, some in India have speculated that weather modification could potentially give China the advantage in a future conflict, given how critical the conditions are to any troop movement in the inhospitable mountainous region.

Although the primary focus of Beijing’s weather modification appears to be domestic, experts have warned there is potential for impact beyond the country’s borders.

In a paper published last year, researchers from National Taiwan University said that “lack of adequate coordination of weather modification activities (could) lead to accusations of ‘rain theft’ between neighboring regions” , both in China and with other countries. They also highlighted the absence of a “system of checks and balances to facilitate the implementation of potentially controversial projects”.

“The scientific evidence and policy rationale for weather modification is not debated or widely discussed (in China),” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, the propensity of leaders to intervene technologically to tame different weather systems is rarely questioned by alternative viewpoints.”

Some experts have speculated that the success of climate modification could lead China to adopt more ambitious geo-engineering projects, especially as the country suffers from the effects of climate change. Radical solutions such as seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles could theoretically help reduce temperatures, but could also have major unintended consequences, and many experts fear what could happen if a country experiments with such techniques.
“Without regulation, one country’s efforts could affect other countries,” said Dhanasree Jayaram, a climate scientist at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Karnataka, India.

“While China has yet to show signs of ‘one-sided’ deployment of geo-engineering projects on the ground, the scale of its climate modification and other massive engineering projects, including of mega-dams (such as the Three Gorges), suggests that China is ready to deploy large-scale geo-engineering projects to combat the impacts of climate change and meet its Paris targets.”