The Chinese “Weather Manipulation Missile” Olympics

by Ian O'Neill on August 12, 2008

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ImpactLab.com)

Chinese weather control rocket blasts off (Source: ImpactLab.com)


One thing is for certain, the Chinese cannot be accused of being subtle when it comes to insuring good weather for the biggest party on Earth. Sounding like a military operation, the Chinese government authorized the use of 1,104 cloud seeding missile launches from 4:00-11:39pm on Friday night to remove the threat of rain ahead of the 29th Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. This was the first time the weather manipulation technique was used during any Olympic event in the history of the games. This summer period can be a very wet season for Beijing and officials have been concerned their moment of huge national pride would be a wash-out. But it would appear the 21 rain dispersal launch sites kept nature at bay and made sure the celebration fireworks didn’t get soggy…

Although cloud seeding remains a hugely controversial practice, both China and Russia are large-scale advocates of various delivery systems. In June, it was reported that during a Russian Air Force cloud seeding operation, a chunk of cement fell from the sky, making a hole in someone’s roof. Although this incident was quite entertaining (not, however, to the owner who vowed to sue the Kremlin), there are some very big local climate concerns associated with cloud seeding. Scientists have pointed out that weather manipulation can amplify drought conditions in one area or increase the risk of floods in another. It is an unpredictable practice at best, and often considered to be highly unreliable. However, the Chinese and Russian governments continue to seed clouds, in an attempt to disperse rain ahead of public holidays and events.

Chinese meteorologists claim that the weather manipulation rockets were highly effective ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, keeping the skies clear and audience dry inside the main Olympic National Stadium (a.k.a. “The Birds Nest”).

We fired a total of 1,104 rain dispersal rockets from 21 sites in the city between 4 p.m. and 11:39 p.m. on Friday, which successfully intercepted a stretch of rain belt from moving towards the stadium” – Guo Hu, Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau (BMB).

Cloud seeding station - looks like an anti-aircraft gun (China Photos/Getty)

Cloud seeding station - An alternate use for an anti-aircraft gun (China Photos/Getty)

According to Xinhua news, Chinese meteorologists decided cloud seeding was the only option as the humidity was rising toward 90% and rain clouds had been tracked since 7:20am approaching the Chinese capital city. Under these conditions, scientists felt for certain rain would pour over the opening ceremony. “Under such a weather condition, a small bubble in the rain cloud would have triggered rainfall, let alone a lightening,” said Guo, presumably indicating that any slight instability in the atmosphere may have caused a storm.

Sounding more like a terror threat than a rain warning, the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau issued a “Yellow Alert” (the third highest) for a thunderstorm at 9:35pm, with heavy rain hitting downtown Beijing soon after. According to officials, at 10:42pm, the clouds had been dispersed and the opening ceremony remained storm-free. They also stated that other areas surrounding Beijing recorded heavy rain, possibly indicating that the focused cloud seeding campaign worked.

Source: Xinhua

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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

mr. bill August 12, 2008 at 7:49 PM

Interestingly, Herman Khan predicted that weather manipulation would eventually be used on this mass scale in peace and in warfare (though he predicted by 1975).

quantum_flux August 12, 2008 at 7:27 PM

Wahoo! Score one for the olympics!

AndyF August 13, 2008 at 3:53 AM

“let alone a lightening,” – or lightning perhaps?

David R. August 13, 2008 at 4:16 AM

Who says conspiracy theories are dead?

Jamie K August 13, 2008 at 5:13 AM

Cool. Where do you sign up for the job of firing the AA gun?

Paul Eaton-Jones August 13, 2008 at 5:46 AM

Watching a small part of the cycling road race it looked as though the rain wasn’t really diverted from Peking at all. Also the BBC Olympic studio seemed to be in the middle of a monsoon. The authorities there might have faked the singing and fireworks but they couldn’t do it with the rain.

Aodhhan August 13, 2008 at 8:52 AM

Now the opening ceremony is over, I believe they are letting it rain. Allowing the rain to clear out the smog which plagues so much of the industrial areas of China.

Dark Gnat August 13, 2008 at 8:55 AM

I see very little hard evidence that it actually works.

Communist vanity at it’s best.

AmunRa August 13, 2008 at 11:24 AM

I believe that people should leave the weather alone, this world has enough climate problems as it is. What we don’t need is for humans to make a mess of thing even more then we already have. Tampering with the natural weather patterns and cycles. Just let the weather do what it does.

btw August 13, 2008 at 7:40 PM

The “Westernization” of China is in full bloom. That cute little singing girl was lip-synching to the vocals of another girl who wasn’t quite cute enough for the opening ceremony.

alan August 14, 2008 at 8:32 AM

I would like to order 10 rockets with extra strength hurricane repellent please.

Ell Jay August 14, 2008 at 11:09 AM

The most concerning part is that apparently any schmoe with a pick-up truck is qualified to launch these missiles, according to the accompanying picture…

jonathan August 15, 2008 at 4:19 AM

Isn’t it harmfull to the environment?

Philip August 15, 2008 at 4:29 AM

The Hydro Electric Commission in Tasmania Australia has been using cloud seeding to help fill their water storages in western Tasmania, with their experiments starting in 1964. Their cloud seeding program has been ongoing over most of their catchments at every opportunity since 1998. The Tasmanian midlands, Derwent Valley, south east and east coast, which are all downwind of their catchments are now in severve drought. We have had more drought years in the last 10 years than we have had average years. We no longer get above average rainfall years. A large percent of our trees have died which studies have show to be mainly due to lack of moisture.
The Tasmanian Government who own the HEC claim that any seeded clouds will keep raining all the way to the east coast and that cloudseeding does not effect rainfall downwind, I can guarentee that this is bulls**t as once the cloud has lost all of it’s moisture, the area downwind largely miss out. This is what the Chinese have done before the cloud band has reached Beijing. I read on another website that a city south west of Beijing received 100mm (4in) on the night of the opening ceremony. Cloud seeding is very dangerous as while it may increase rainfall in one area it may reduce it in another. Although in this case it appears as it may have been for a good cause.
If anyone has anymore info on negative effects of cloud seeding please email me
philip@guilford.com.au

James August 18, 2008 at 12:34 AM

Reading about the chinese government making decisions makes me uneasy.

Like, read this article:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/08/12/oly.kids/

I read about governments like this in textbooks. It baffles me that one is still around today…

trux August 19, 2008 at 5:02 AM

One such goverment around? You must be joking, James. Practically all governments use lies, deceiption, mind control, media manipulation, and similar techniques to push their propaganda. And that includes governemtns in “democratic” countries as well. Faked child singer is the last I would mind in China, and especially not when they are openly admitting it.

As for clouds seeding – that’s indeed nothing new. The technology goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. Soviet communists used it routinely for example at national holidays or communist congresses to clear up the sky, giving so the events happier atmosphere. See more about cloud seeding for example in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_seeding

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