|China is currently putting all their effort into making sure the weather is perfect for the 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Beijing. In fact, the Chinese government guarantees clear skies. What makes them so confident that there won’t be rain? The answer is a weather modification process called “cloud seeding” that China is heavily invested in.|
China is using heavy weapons and planes to launch silver iodide pellets into clouds to concentrate moisture and cause rain. The Chinese Weather Modification Department will track cloud formations and use the cloud seeding practice to stimulate rainfall in the days before the 2008 Olympics to ensure the opening ceremonies will have clear skies.
Cloud seeding works by speeding along the natural process of rain. The pellets contain particles around which water can condense and build up saturation until it has to release the built-up moisture in the form of rain, even in areas with very low humidity. The particles used in cloud seeding can be salts, calcium chloride, dry ice, or silver iodide.
Other than preventing rain for the Olympics, China is spending $60 to $90 million a year on cloud seeding to provide enough water for its enormous population and to clear away smog in heavily polluted areas. It has also been used to cool down Beijing on hot days. The process is very expensive, but potentially cheaper than other solutions such as diverting rivers, building canals, or improving irrigation systems.
Cloud seeding may also be hazardous to the citizens and property in the areas where it is practiced. There is concern for silver iodide toxicity and soil contamination. This can cause respiratory and heart problems in humans. It is also very toxic to fish and other invertebrates. Additionally, wayward shots in China have damaged property and even killed one person in 2006. Although China has improved the training, licensing and safety of these practices, the dangers involved are still important issues.
Many other areas of the world have looked into cloud seeding methods to control precipitation including Russia, Israel, Thailand, the Caribbean, South Africa, and the United States. However, U.S. cloud seeding activity has decreased since the early 1970s due to a lack of convincing evidence that the process is effective.
Cloud seeding has seen some successes, but many people are still unsure whether to call this practice intelligent or irresponsible. How do we know that it is truly effective? Is it worth the cost and possible dangers? Can you think of any alternatives? Share your thoughts in the Opinion Corner forum.