Cloud Seeding Explained As China Reportedly Controlled Weather Before Political Parade

China was able to use weather manipulation technology known as cloud seeding to ensure good air quality and clear skies at a large event during the summer, according to scientists.

Cloud seeding is a process that allows people to exert some control over the weather by making it more likely to rain at a certain time and place. This method can also ensure that other areas stay clear.

According to the South China Morning Post, which cited scientists from Tsinghua University, the Chinese government used cloud seeding to bring on rainfall over suburban Beijing and some neighboring areas just hours before the centenary of the Communist Party event back in July.

The "artificial rain" that was produced had the effect of markedly clearing particulate pollution from the skies ahead of the event.

Reportedly, local residents claimed they saw rockets being shot into the sky on the eve of the ceremony, and the scientists think they were carrying silver iodide—a chemical often used in cloud seeding.

Cloud seeding works by releasing a substance like silver iodide into existing clouds. This then causes water droplets within the clouds to freeze and clump together, and when they get big enough they fall out of the cloud as rain.

Cloud seeding has a host of applications. According to the North American Weather Modification Council (NAWMC) it can be used to increase rainfall, reduce hail, and eliminate fog—useful at a busy airport, for example.

The effect of cloud seeding can occur almost immediately after the release of the chemical into the cloud. This release can be done in a number of ways, such as from an aircraft or via ground-based generators.

There has been some debate over the years about whether or not cloud seeding is very effective, but it hasn't stopped China investing well over a billion dollars into the technology in recent years to help alleviate drought and other natural disasters, the Xinhua news agency reported in 2017. The U.S., too, has expressed an interest in cloud seeding as a possible way to alleviate drought.

In recent years NASA has been subject to a cloud seeding myth, of sorts. Proponents of the myth claim that the space agency uses some sort of gigantic machine that churns out clouds to modify the weather. Various social media posts have claimed this over the years.

A Newsweek fact check debunked this myth earlier this year, showing that the cloud-making machine is actually just a rocket engine test.

China Communist Party 100th anniversary
Soldiers march at a parade for the 100th anniversary of China's Communist Party in Beijing, China, on July 1, 2021. China reportedly used cloud seeding before the event. Lintao Zhang/Getty