China Spending Billions to Make Rain

February 14, 2017 – China tried rainmaking during its hosting of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. Cannons fired silver iodide and dry ice shells into the skies around the capital city to encourage cloud formation and rain and subsequently reduce smog pollution.


Harbin China, 2013, smog inundates city. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)


The latest rainmaking endeavour, however, isn’t about clearing pollutants. It’s about trying to make rain happen in Northwestern China where there is persistent drought. The Chinese government believes it has two choices. One would be to move much of the population of the eight provinces impacted by the drought to new homes where there is sufficient rainfall. The other is to bring the rain to these provinces.

That’s where the China Meteorological Administration comes in. It has suggested an investment of 1.15 billion yuan could increase rain and snowfall by 10% in the 960,000 square kilometer area affected by drought. That’s an area equal in size to both Great Britain and France combined.

The investment would be used to create a fleet of 12 aircraft, 897 rocket launchers, and 1,856 digital controllers designed to manage seeding of clouds with silver iodide and dry ice to induce precipitation.


                             Cloud seeding by airplane to induce rain.


Rainmaking has become very popular in China in recent years. A development plan for the city of Beijing incorporates weather modification technology into its annual budgets.

One official of the Qinghai provincial government, He Shengcun, recently described how artificially induced precipitation has increased by 55 billion cubic meters between 2006 and 2016, a volume equivalent to 150% of the total water contained behind the Three Gorges Dam, on the Yangtze River.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...