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China to control Mother Nature, steps up man-made rain initiative

China to control Mother Nature, steps up man-made rain initiative

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News & Events - Engineering News

December 13, 2011

China is hoping to use its growing scientific prowess as it works to help fight drought conditions affecting parts of the country.

China is turning its attention toward the sky as it works to coax Mother Nature into being more agreeable. The world's second biggest economy is planning to begin a program that will artificially increase precipitation across the country before 2015, according to China Daily.

Countries all over the world have had to contend with fluctuations in temperature and weather patterns prompted by a changing global climate. With the worldwide population continuing to grow at a fast clip, officials in China have struggled to ensure demand for food does not outstrip supplies.

Droughts last year eroded stockpiles of exceedingly important raw materials, including grains, sending raw material prices surging. Chinese officials are hoping to forestall food crises in the future, and if the program is successful other countries that are also battling the whims of Mother Nature could employ it as a means of augmenting crop yields.

Popular Science reports that China is beginning four regional programs to increase precipitation across the country by 10 percent by 2015. China unveiled the new program when it revealed its latest Five-Year Plan, which is aimed at addressing issues the nation expects to confront over the coming half-decade.

In its rapid economic ascent, China took on the role as the world's factory, as companies flocked to the Asian giant to establish production plants and take advantage of its cheap labor. However, officials must now entice the country's expanding middle class to consume more. As countries mature economically, consumer spending becomes an increasingly large component of GDP, and China is hoping to spur its more than 1 billion citizens to increase their food and living expenditures.

The "Weather Intervention" program could result in such an outcome, according to experts. In total, officials said they hope the program will bring an additional 230 billion cubic meters of precipitation per year. China currently generates roughly 50 billion cubic meters of artificial precipitation annually.

Moreover, officials are hoping to take advantage of clouds holding approximately 3 trillion cubic meters of water that pass over the country each year. Only 20 percent of that water reaches the ground, according to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), but scientists are confident they can greatly increase that figure by utilizing "effective weather intervention measures."

"Because clouds are boundless, weather control is boundless. The five regional weather control programs will coordinate the ground resources, such as the cloud seeding rockets and planes, across provinces to increase potential rain or snow," CMA emergency response deputy director Zheng Jiangping said.

Zheng asserted officials plan to focus their efforts on wheat-growing regions in northeastern China, which were significantly affected by droughts and flooding events last year. China also plans to establish a weather intervention and command center by 2015 where scientists will work to improve current techniques, according to China Daily.

China has also used so-called cloud seeding to clear pollution in the past. In the lead-up the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing, China fired silver iodide particles into the atmosphere to reduce smog and airborne pathogens. Cloud seeding has not always been successful, however, as critics affirm the country's use of the practice has resulted in unintended snowstorms and ice melting. Scientists say it is only effective in increasing precipitation by roughly 20 percent, but the country is moving forward with the bold program.

"The program in Jilin was finished late this year and is working well. The successful operation will accelerate the construction of the other four," according to Zheng.

 



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