Chinese weathermen on guard against bad weather on National Day

Beijing, Oct 1 (IANS) Nearly 400 scientists, satellites, cloud-probing lasers and a squadron of transport planes to sprinkle liquid nitrogen on clouds were deployed in Beijing with one mission – to ensure good weather over the city as China celebrated the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic Thursday.

As 190,000 dancers, politicians, soldiers and fighter pilots went on with their highly synchronized extravaganza, perhaps no one was feeling more performance anxiety than Guo Hu, Beijing’s chief weatherman, reports New York Times.

Support TwoCircles

“If we make a mistake with our work, the impact will be huge,” Guo, a soft spoken scientist, told a news conference this week.

“We are under a lot of pressure.”

Cui Lianqing, an air force meteorologist, told Global Times newspaper last week: “It is the first time in Chinese history that artificial weather modification on such a large scale has been attempted.”

During the Olympics, technicians fired off 1,100 rockets that delivered chemical catalysts into a band of clouds, and, according to the Chinese media, provoked rainfall that might have otherwise soaked the opening ceremonies.

Cloud seeding, as its known, is not an exact science. In fact, many scientists in the US remain dubious over claims that humans can increase precipitation or forestall bad weather. But such cynicism has not dampened China’s enthusiasm for rainmaking.

Last winter, as drought parched Beijing and the surrounding countryside, aging anti-aircraft batteries on the city’s outskirts shot more than 500 pencil-thin sticks of silver iodide into the heavens. Coincidentally or not, three days of snowfall graced the capital soon after.

According to the China Academy of Meteorological Sciences, more than 37,000 people are employed in weather modification nationwide. These programmes cost $63 million a year, but the society claims they produce benefits worth $1.7 billion.

Success for National Day would be priceless.

On Wednesday, 18 planes were prepared to deliver payloads of dry ice, salt and silver iodide should clouds prove menacing. If daybreak on Thursday brings fog, 48 specialized vehicles will cough out streams of air to chase away any miasma that could obscure the coloured streams released by 150 fighter jets said.

“The air force pays high attention to the artificial weather manipulation and we believe that the more equipment applied, the larger the area we can manipulate and the better weather we can have,” Cui, the air force meteorologist, was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

By mid-morning on Thursday, the results were in.

As President Hu Jintao of China drove along Chang’ An Avenue reviewing a sea of troops, the sky was windex blue, scored with a few white tufts of clouds.

The weather, by any national standard, was perfect.