China Developing the Biggest Artificial Rain Experiment Ever

Monday, April 30, 2018 - 10:56

China is building the foundations of what will become the largest artificial rain experiment in history.

The project will see tens of thousands of fuel-burning chambers installed across the Tibetan mountains, with a view to boosting rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic meters annually, according to reports.

The plan, which is an extension of a project called Tianhe or 'Sky River' developed by researchers in 2016 at China's Tsinghua university, is hoped to bring extra rain to a massive area spanning some 1.6 million square kilometers (almost 620,000 square miles).

For a bit of context, that's larger than Alaska, and about three times the size of Spain, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), and this immense scope means the extra rainfall expected will also be voluminous if the plan succeeds, equivalent to roughly 7 percent of China's annual water consumption.

While it sounds like something out of science fiction, this form of weather modification, called cloud seeding, is something scientists have been trying to pull off for decades now, and China is more deeply invested in the concept than anywhere else in the world.

In the Tibetan project, the burning chambers will produce silver iodide particles that will be carried into the atmosphere by the wind, where they are expected to seed moisture clouds capable of producing rain and snow.

"Such weather modification does not 'produce' rain as such," geoengineering researcher Janos Pasztor from the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative (C2G2) told Gizmodo.

"Rather, it makes rain happen somewhere, which means that it will not happen somewhere else. This immediately means that ecosystems and people living somewhere else where it would have rained will no longer get this rain."

If that's correct, the potential effects of China's Sky River could mean whole cloud systems covering an area the size of Alaska might be diverted to boost rainfall over the Tibetan Plateau.

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