Big Trouble in Thirsty China: PRC Doubles Down on Cloud Seeding

Praying for rain would be more successful than China’s precipitation Ponzi scheme.

Storm clouds loom over the Great Wall of China. (Photo: Best View Stock/Getty)
Sal holds a Political Science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Under the gun to solve two compounding problems, severe groundwater depletion and the food requirements of 1.3 billion people, officials in Beijing have authorized five regional weather control agencies to increase the country’s rainmaking operations by 10 percent come 2015, according to a government report.

Key word in that sentence? Increase.

The Chinese government is already dancing to the rain Gods, weather its citizens like the unnatural heavenly intrusion or not.

The new $57 million per year plan is expected to result in an additional 230 billion cubic meters of rain annually—that’s on top of the 50 billion China already artificially creates annually.

One of the world’s foremost authorities on groundwater, Dr. James Famiglietti, the director of the University of California’s Center for Hydrologic Modeling, tells TakePart that praying for rain would be more successful than China's artificial scheme.

“Cloud seeding research has been around for decades, and the little rain that it generates has no tangible impact on water supply,” says Famiglietti. “I'm not surprised to hear of China's recent discussion of weather modification. However, there is no credible evidence that it works.”

The National Research Council agrees. In 2003, it conducted a thorough review of the literature and deemed that there is “no convincing scientific proof of the efficacy of intentional weather modification efforts.”

The idea behind cloud seeding is to provide a nucleus, or a seed, upon which water vapor can condense and form raindrops. But between its desert dust and industrial particulate output (from all those coal-fired factories), Famiglietti says that China does not lack for air particulates.

“China generates such large quantities of dust that much of it is transported across the Pacific and provides the natural nucleii that form much of California's rain,” says Famiglietti.

If past is prologue, Chinese citizens, especially those opposed to dying in a severe weather events, should seriously consider occupying the Beijing Weather Modification Office—the government branch responsible for the PRC’s weather contol-freakisms.

In November 2009, after the office created 16 million metric tons of additional snow, a massive blizzard caused more than $650 million in damage in Beijing and at least 40 deaths.

The Chinese aren’t the only artificial rainmakers capable of a misstep, either.

In June 2008, a Russian Air Force jet tried to seed clouds over Moscow using bags of cement. One crashed into a residential roof after failing to turn into powder

Lesson of the day?

Leave Mother Nature alone. Let her do her thing. Don’t force her hand. She’s been captain of planet Earth long before mankind became its most dominant life form, a perch she'll keep long after we're gone—assuming, of course, that we don't make our spinning blue marble inhospitable in the next hundred years.

If China truly wants to change the planet for the better (and not just prevent a drought-induced economic downturn), take the steps that work: a) shut down all those filthy-rotten coal-fired plants b) mandate its citizens to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle, like carpooling, shorter showers, and no bottled water. These steps have proven track records. Clouds on manmade steroids don't.

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