Monday, August 11, 2008

Beijing controls the weather

What other government in the world, for what other reason, would be able to "guarantee" the weather? One of the biggest feats of China's spectacular opening ceremony on Friday wasn't inside the stadium. As most people inside the Bird's Nest feared rain -- and secretly, because of the heavy heat and humidity, prayed for it -- the city's meteorological bureau peppered approaching clouds with over 1000 silver-iodide rockets. That triggered intense showers outside the city and preempted a rainfall on China's parade.

It was one of the more fitting, if unacknowledged, touches to the super-sized ceremony, which after all was about China's human daring and ingenuity.

Ever since Mao Zedong, who declared that "man must defeat the heavens," the country has used cloud-seeding mostly to alleviate drought. Though NASA plays with the technique to provide good weather for shuttle launches and Los Angeles and Wyoming have relaunched their own programs, Friday's ceremony may have marked the world's most critical and singular rainmaking mission, one which scientists had in their sights for years: clearing the skies for the world's largest event.

While the city was setting off 33,866 fireworks, it also "fired a total of 1,104 rain dispersal rockets from 21 sites in the city between 4 pm and 11:39 pm on Friday, which prevented a rain belt from moving toward the stadium," bureau chief Guo Hu said, according to China Daily.

read the whole story on Treehugger