China Makes It Rain With a Weather Control Network Twice the Size of Texas

Wild donkeys rest near a lake on the grasslands in Hoh Xil, in the northwestern part of the Tibetan plateau, on May 14, 2011. China is building a giant weather modification network to bring rain to the plateau. Reuters

China is developing a powerful weather-modification network—that's more than twice the size of Texas—to bring much-needed rain to the Tibetan Plateau.

According to the New Scientist, the machine works by seeding clouds with silver iodide particles that trigger them to release moisture. The process involves positioning burner devices at the base of mountain ranges to send immense gusts of hot fumes and iodide upward into the sky.

This prompts the clouds to produce ice crystals that descend onto Earth as rain and snow. The additional water is expected to greatly increase harvest productivity and food production in the area.

Researchers have estimated that the machines have the potential to increase rainfall—or meltwater—per year by 10 trillion, which amounts to approximately 7 percent of the mainland's total water consumption.

According to the South China Morning Post, tens of thousands of fuel-burning chambers will be placed across a total area of 620,000 square miles—approximately the size of Alaska. If successful, it will be the world's biggest weather-modification system of its kind.

"[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 Hong Kong based newspaper.

Developed by state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the system uses military rocket engine technology that facilitates the safe use of burner devices at an altitude of 16,400 feet.

Although the U.S. has executed similar tests, they have been on much smaller sites. Beijing has also trialed similar procedures in the past on local levels to guarantee good weather for prominent national events such as the Olympics.

"The Chinese have been doing cloud seeding for a long time, but it's only in the last 10 to 15 years that they've taken a scientific approach," Roelof Bruintjes, chair of the World Meteorological Office's Expert Team on Weather Modification, said. "We are training some of their scientists and we're trying to get them to be more quantitative."

Some experts have expressed their concern for the geopolitical implications that may arise if one country is able to control the "weather and climate."

"That is one massively powerful economic weapon," Jim Dale, a consultant at meteorology firm British Weather Services, said.