China Against Bad Weather, Not Just Tibetan Independence

I’m a historian by education, and wrote my thesis on the cultural icons of the Olympic Games, so you can imagine I’m watching the developing situation with Beijing closely….

2000973586650897670_rs.jpgImage from [email protected]@ld on Flickr

Obviously for the human rights purposes, but also because the Chinese Government is so strange they occasionally will come up with some pure gold:

The farmers maintain 21 emplacements of antiaircraft guns and 26 rocket launchers, which fire munitions loaded with silver iodide into the clouds. In the winter, when clouds are lower, the modifiers burn chemical charges in special stoves. A small squadron of planes, flown from a military airfield, delivers silver iodide or dry ice into the clouds from above.

Air quality has been an issue for the Chinese capital for a while, but they’ve consistently claimed that environmentalism is a luxury that only rich nations engage in. Never mind that they hold the receipts for all of America’s war debt and could probably afford any program they wished that and bankrupt the U.S. at the same time by calling those in, nobody in the Chinese hierarchy was very concerned about the record-setting smog they were inhaling until the Beijing Olympic bid was accepted. It certainly has the visiting teams up in arms— I’ve even heard rumors of squads planning to wear masks for the duration of their stay.

Despite all of this, the Chinese have come to the conclusion that no event will look very good on camera. In Beijing, even a clear day looks fuzzy under the heavy layer of smog generated by the millions of cars and heavy industrial capacity surrounding the city core. This has led to an increase in the weather modification efforts, both in an attempt to ensure that rain doesn’t ruin the opening and closing ceremonies, and to grant a “blue sky day”, or a day with one of the two lowest strata of air pollution, as recorded by the government.

It’s worth noting: Olympic officials are contingency planning already to move events indoors or reschedule them for another day if the environment becomes dangerous.