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China is launching a weather-control machine the size of Alaska

A rocket launcher used to seed clouds to induce rain is seen at a station of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau in Beijing, China, July 19, 2007. Photo: AP

China is launching the world's largest weather-control machine, with the ability to modify the weather in an area similar to the size of Alaska. China has never shied away from doing things on a massive scale and this is yet another example of the Chinese government working on an unprecedented scale.

China's state-owned Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is implementing a plan to send thousands of rain-inducing machines across the Tibetan Plateau to increase rainfall along the region.

The Tibetan Plateau is the source of much of China's water, running down from the mountainous highlands via the massive Yangtze, Mekong, and Yellow rivers. These rivers, which originate on the Tibetan Plateau, are fed by glacial and snow meltwater and drain down into the fertile Chinese farmlands.

The practice of artificially inducing rainfall in China is not new, the country manipulated the weather over Beijing just before and during the 2008 Beijing Olympics to ensure a rain-free event. The practice has only grown in scale as part of the Sky River Project aimed at increasing China's water resources for its billions of people.

China is installing tens of thousands of chambers across the Tibetan Plateau and mountains. These machines will produce very fine silver iodide particles that are then lifted into the atmosphere with upwelling winds. As these particles are dispersed into the atmosphere they act as the 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.

Each rain machine (chamber) is expected to create a 3-mile long strip of billowing clouds. When multiplied by the thousands of chambers China is installing along the Tibetan Plateau, it is estimated that China will be artificially controlling the weather over an area similar to the size of Alaska.

China plans to monitor the system through weather satellites and supplement with silver iodide particles deployed from planes and shot out of ground artillery. In total, the Chinese government expects the system, which will span 620,000 square miles, to produce up to 10 billion cubic meters of rainfall each year.

If the system works as expected, it would equal roughly 7 percent of China's annual water consumption, helping China quench the thirst of its 1.4 billion people.
 


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