Since 2013 China has been creating 55 billion tons of artificial rain a year. The country is now embarking on its biggest rainmaking project ever.
In terms of the plan, announced this month, Chinese authorities intend to force rainfall and snow over 1.6 million sq km (620,000 sq miles), an area roughly three times the size of Spain.
According to media reports, the government will use new military weather-altering technology developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
The country plans to build tens of thousands of combustion chambers on Tibetan mountainsides. The chambers will burn a solid fuel, which will result in a spray of silver iodide billowing towards the sky.
“More than 500 burners have been deployed on alpine slopes in Tibet, Xinjiang and other areas for experimental use.
The data we have collected show very promising results,” an unnamed researcher told the Morning Post. “Sometimes snow would start falling almost immediately after we ignited the chamber. It was like standing on the stage of a magic show,” he said.
The Tibetan plateau is vital to the water supply for much of China and a large area of Asia. Its glaciers and reservoirs feed the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, and other major rivers that flow through China, India, Nepal, and other countries.
Sprayed from planes, the particles will provide something for passing water vapor to condense around, forming clouds. Those clouds will bring the rain. A single cloud-seeding chamber could create a strip of clouds covering a 5km area.
Traditionally, the rainmaking process or “cloud-seeding” means rocket-launching chemicals into clouds which accelerate the creation of ice crystals that eventually become rain. China also uses military aircraft for those purposes.
Rainmaking is also a popular way to “clean up” air in China, where heavy smog is a big problem for many cities.
The practice of weather modification has become more frequent across the country in recent years, including for major public events. In 2008, China launched over 1,100 rockets containing silver iodide into Beijing’s skies before the Olympics opening ceremony to disperse clouds and keep the Olympics rain-free.
Beijing has a “development plan” for weather modification until 2020.
The water shortage has been acute in Iran over the past years. Even the relatively wet parts of the country in the west and the north have seen historically low levels of rainfall this year.
Authorities said the province of Tehran, which includes the capital, experienced one of the longest dry spells in autumn this year, from September through December.
Statistics indicate that Iran ranked 13th among the most water-stressed countries in 2040. Due to unconditional agricultural activities and extraction of too much of its aquifers, today Iran has lost much of its underground water resources causing large holes in almost 50% of its plains.
“We recorded 15.6 millimeters of rainfall in this province (Tehran) in autumn,” said Shahrokh Fateh, head of the National Center for Drought and Crisis Management, which is affiliated to Iran’s Meteorological Organization.
Fateh added that the precipitation was record low in the past 30 years.
Iran has embarked on projects for transferring water from the Persian Gulf or the Caspian Sea to the arid territories in eastern and central provinces.
The Helmand River, a major source of water to the provinces in the southeast that border Afghanistan, has effectively dried up in most places, forcing many farmer families to leave their homes in villages and migrate to larger cities.
By Africafrique and agencies