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China Plans to Deploy ‘Sky River Project’ to Create 10 Million Cubic Meters of Rain Over the Tibetan Plateau

China plans to control the weather over the Tibetan Plateau to produce more rain, but at what cost?
China, china sky river, china sky river project

China wants to make it rain.

If government officials in the world’s fourth-largest country have their way, a man-made weather-control machine will produce up to 10 million cubic meters of rain across the Tibetan Plateau — an area roughly the size of Alaska.

As an extension of the “Sky River” project developed in 2016 by scientists at China’s Tsinghua University, the Chinese state-owned Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation has developed rain-inducing machines that disperse tiny silver iodide particles into the atmosphere.

The particles then act as nucleation centers for condensed water — in other words, allow the water molecules to stick together and eventually form a cloud that will become heavy enough to rain. In natural weather systems, it’s typically particles of dust that allow condensation to nucleate.

There’s no question the system works — the government used it to absorb moisture in the sky and produce precipitation ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, thereby ensuring a dry week for the event. If the experiment on the Tibetan Plateau is successful, the resulting rain could equal approximately 7 percent of China’s annual water consumption, mitigating the drought conditions that have plagued much of the world — and especially China — the past few years.

“[So far,] 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,” a researcher told the South China Morning Post. The Tibetan Plateau is the source of most of China’s water; each of the machines is expected to create a 3-mile-long string of rain clouds.

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    Kat Merck is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. An amateur naturalist who stud... keep reading