Rainmaking in China

By Deane Barker on June 30, 2006

China rolls out the big guns, aiming for a dry Olympics: I must be behind the times, because I didn’t even know this was possible.

[…] u and the other rainmakers face their toughest challenge: making sure it stays dry for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The idea is for the peasant gunners to work with meteorologists watching radar in the capital. Together, they will hunt pregnant rain clouds and pound them with rockets containing silver iodide. The hope is that any moisture will fall before the clouds can threaten the parade of athletes and lighting of the Olympic flame at the new National Stadium.

There’s a picture of the guy, sitting there in his old WWII-era AA gun, looking toward the skies.

Here’s the science behind it, from a sidebar on the article:

Scientists at meteorological centers in major cities monitor clouds by satellite and analyze their content. When conditions are ripe, local rainmaking teams are ordered to assemble. Teams such as Yu Yonggang’s outside Beijing can be at their guns in 10 minutes.

Rainmaking from the ground: Shells are fired from anti-aircraft guns or rocket launchers. An alternative is to burn silver iodide on hilltops. Moisture in clouds collects around the chemical particles until it is heavy enough to fall.

Here’s a Wikipedia article on cloud seeding, which is essentially what they’re doing here.