Sense of Deception



China looks to master its control over the weather

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Aileen McCabe, Asia Correspondent, Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, March 04, 2010

The sun shines on Tiananmen Square during the National Day parade  in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2009.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images The sun shines on Tiananmen Square during the National Day parade in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2009.

SHANGHAI — China plans to step up its use of the weather modification techniques that brought sunny skies for both the Beijing Olympics and last year’s giant military parade on National Day.

The official China Daily newspaper reported Thursday that China is even going to try to regulate the weather during the five-month long Shanghai Expo that begins on May 1.

“The Shanghai event will be a challenge as it lasts 184 days and may be affected by monsoons and high temperatures,” the paper said.

Zheng Guoguang, head of China’s Meteorological Administration, told the paper that manipulating the weather is a developing science that needed more research and study. “It is still at a research-and-use stage and there are still a lot of problems to be resolved.”

Still, Zheng said China is already actively involved in modifying the weather over a large part of the country in an effort to improve crop yields, particularly wheat. Some 840 flights were made to increase rainfall last year, he said, and 116,000 rockets and 8,900 artillery shells were fired into the atmosphere.

Shot from planes or artillery on the ground, the rockets and shells bombard clouds with silver oxide pellets. The chemical attracts particles of water stored inside the cloud, massing them into heavier drops that are more likely to fall as rain or snow.

China claims “seeding” clouds does not cause pollution and says the traces of silver oxide found in the water supply after clouds have been seeded are within national drinking water standards.

Zheng said demand is rising across China for cloud seeding to relieve the decade-long drought in the north of the country, including Beijing, and prevent damaging hail storms, both of which affect the food supply.

He said he expected modifying the weather would help China meet its goal of increasing grain yields by 50 million tonnes annually.

China spent $140 million manipulating the weather in 2009, but claimed it earned back 30 times that much in increased crop yields.

China’s weathermen seem happy to take credit for the good affects of cloud seeding, but when the China Daily reported last November that the government’s weather control establishment was responsible for the second major snow storm to hit the capital in less than two weeks, there was a deafening silence from the Weather Modification Centre that comes under Zheng’s administration.

It appeared happy to let Mother Nature take the blame for the clogged highways and grounded flights.

About two dozen countries around the world practice weather manipulation, including the U.S., Russia, India and Canada.

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