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China Earth Science

China, in Search of Water, is Building a Rain-Making Network Three Times the Size of Spain (scmp.com) 111

China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia's biggest freshwater reserve. From a report: The system, which involves an enormous network of fuel-burning chambers installed high up on the Tibetan mountains, could increase rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year -- about 7 per cent of China's total water consumption -- according to researchers involved in the project. Tens of thousands of chambers will be built at selected locations across the Tibetan plateau to produce rainfall over a total area of about 1.6 million square kilometres (620,000 square miles), or three times the size of Spain. It will be the world's biggest such project.

The chambers burn solid fuel to produce silver iodide, a cloud-seeding agent with a crystalline structure much like ice. The chambers stand on steep mountain ridges facing the moist monsoon from south Asia. As wind hits the mountain, it produces an upward draft and sweeps the particles into the clouds to induce rain and snow.

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China, in Search of Water, is Building a Rain-Making Network Three Times the Size of Spain

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  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @10:08AM (#56346405) Homepage Journal
    This won't increase total precipitation. Either the moisture is moving and raining somewhere which doesn't run to the water table attached to the reservoir, or all of this water is already coming down as rain. Are they stealing rain from another province over?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yeah, they'll use up all the water before it rains over the pacific ocean. Oh, noes, the Pacific Ocean will dry up! AAaaaaaaa!

      • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @10:19AM (#56346459) Homepage Journal

        This seems to be in the center of a continent, and affecting water-laden air moving northward. It looks like there's 850-1,850 miles of land before this air would reach Taiwan and the East Chinese Sea. The US is 3,000 miles across.

        It looks like they could impact Gansu or Mongolia.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The moisture flows northward and much of it ends as snow which becomes ice in the Arctic.

          This has the potential to reduce the amount of Arctic ice cover significantly.

        • This seems to be in the center of a continent, and affecting water-laden air moving northward.

          Hmm, center of Asia, water-laden air moving northwards...

          Who could possibly be effected by this sort of thing? After all, there's noone north of China, after all.

          What's that you say? Russia? Nah, couldn't be!

      • by RandomFactor ( 22447 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @10:39AM (#56346573)

        This particular question is addressed at the very end of TFA. Sounds like there is a real concern with reducing the rainfall of other regions of China.

        Reducing the rainfall in regions other than China is not mentioned as a consideration.

        Beijing might not give the green light for the project either, he added, as intercepting the moisture in the skies over Tibet could have a knock-on effect and reduce rainfall in other Chinese regions.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          That's because if the history of China is any indicator, they won't give a fuck what happens outside of China, including areas that they consider to be China, but the rest of the world (and those areas themselves) considers to be completely different countries.

        • by zieroh ( 307208 )

          If this isn't man-made climate change, I don't know what is.

        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          The moment you hear China and Tibet in the same article, you should wonder if the article holds information with what China REALLY wants to do with Tibet.

          I am sure that the Chinese scientists are not that stupid and just use this as a front to infiltrate Tibet even further. It is a nice story how Tibet is now helping China, so all is good. This is nothing more than propaganda.

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        Well now, there's your answer to climate change, and rising oceans.

        That's sarcasm, in case someone doesn't figure that out.

      • I'm still working on, "enormous network of fuel-burning chambers" I guess China being next to the worlds largest body of water, a.k.a.Pacific Ocean, is an ignorable fact?
        • The US also is next to the Pacific, but we don't plan on using it to satisfy water needs in the Midwest. The Midwest gets its water from rain and snow melt in what is mostly the Mississippi watershed. If we wanted the Midwest to be wetter, we'd want more rain and snow in that watershed, not a project to import water from the Pacific. Similarly, the Chinese are talking about more rain in areas quite a bit away from the coast.

    • That's what I want to know more or less, except bigger: How would such a thing affect global weather patterns? Does the Chinese government even give a rat's ass about that? Betting they don't.
    • by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @01:14PM (#56347759)

      It's entirely possible that these airmasses aren't going to rain or snow anywhere after passing over the Tibetan Plateau. Getting up to the level of the plateau -- 14000 feet and up -- involves a lot of orographic uplift and squeezing out of moisture. Once they move on to lower elevation areas, they will drop and warm. The resulting humidity may well be too low to support precipitation.

      The article, if you actually read the whole thing, acknowledges that there may not be a lot of moisture there to extract even in Tibet. It also makes it clear that this is only a proposal and has not been approved by Beijing.

  • A Zero-Sum Game? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VirginMary ( 123020 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @10:10AM (#56346411)

    I wonder who may loose out on the rain then? Also, I bet, China won't give a rat's ass as long as they have the stronger military and with annual growth of military spending in the double digits the rest of the world should better look out.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder who may loose out on the rain then?

      If it works perfectly, this will divert some of the monsoon moisture to China. End result would be slightly less destructive rains on one side, and slightly more drinkable water on the other (where "slightly" may be an enourmous number in human-scale terms, but is fairly small compared to the total numbers involved).

      • If it works perfectly

        Was it really necessary to make me spray coffee all over my screen this early in the morning?

        • Was it really necessary to make me spray coffee all over my screen this early in the morning?

          Ewwww, who keeps coffee in a spray bottle?

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        The monsoon is a seasonal change in prevailing winds. The summer monsoon, which runs from July to September, transports huge amounts of moisture from the Indian Ocean. Northern South Asia also has a winter monsoon, that runs from October to April, and brings modest rains in the first few months.

      • "Less destructive rains" like that destructive flooding of the Nile that Mubarak's dam stopped?

        You know, the flooding that was driving organic salts and detreitus miles inland, making the west bank fertile and allowing farmers to produce high yields.

        Stopping the destructive flooding of the Nile also devastated Egypt's capacity to produce food. It was an enormous, expensive project that destroyed their economy and created famine.

        How destructive are these monsoons?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure it'll disrupt rain patterns in the area.

      And this is just the beginning of how population pressures and global warming are going to affect people. If folks think we have an immigration problem now, just wait 20 years. The World is going to have some serious environmental and resource problems to contend with as well as the innate tribalism and xenophobia most people's have.

      And a wall or walls at our borders? Pffft! Won't do jack shit other than waste money. See, there's something called boats....

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The trade winds bend fairly north in Asia, so that the prevailing winds in Tibet run from northeast to southwest, unlike most of the continental US at that latitude where westerlies prevail.

      So if moisture is falling on the Tibetan plateau, it's not falling in the northern parts of South Asia. If China succeeds, I believe the losers will be Nepal, the Punjab, and possibly eastern Pakistan -- places that receive a mild fall northeast monsoon coming down from the Himalayas but not the more potent and well-kno

      • This is incorrect. The Himalayas act as a barrier and nothing comes "from tibet".
        The Monsoon is SW and SE (From Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal)

    • ...loose

      You sure you're a virgin??

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @10:12AM (#56346425) Homepage
    professor higgins: "the rain in spain stays mainly in the plain"
    chinese scientists: ...hold my oolong...
  • Isn't it kind of expensive to use up all that silver? Or does it not really use very much silver? (Or is that just a name?)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Yellow Menace is stealing our precious bodily fluids!
    • I guess rain water is no longer viable for replenishment of our precious bodily fluids.

      We're down to just distilled water, and pure grain alcohol.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    By forcing rain to fall on Chinese soil... they are effectively inducing a drought elsewhere. Say now, the south of Russia becomes incredibly dry because there is no rain. China has no regard for absolutely anything. They take a technology and simply use it, asking no questions.

    What are the dry-to-be countries in the area do, then?

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      What are the dry-to-be countries in the area do, then?

      War. Which is exactly what would happen if there isn't some form of offset such as China selling crops at a greatly reduced price to those areas and so on.

      • What are the dry-to-be countries in the area do, then?

        War. Which is exactly what would happen if there isn't some form of offset such as China selling crops at a greatly reduced price to those areas and so on.

        Yea... and we think resource wars over oil are vicious...

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @10:44AM (#56346589) Journal

    I'm no climatologist, but China mass-draining the monsoons of suspended water can't have anything but nearly catastrophic effects on down-wind ecosystems that have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to exist compatibly with current moisture patterns.

    If they pull the moisture out of the air to get it to fall in Tibet, then it won't be there to fall wherever those air currents normally dump it - Eastern Russia, Northern China, or maybe even Japan. It would seem that relatively-dessicated air masses may behave unpredictably as well.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Unless it goes the same way many large projects in China go...in the dumpster. But it will probably cause ecological havoc before they admit they screwed up. Then it will takes years of them denying there was any ecological havoc while they pray for auspicious circumstances to magically make it work. After Ping goes Pong, they may decide to pull the plug.

      • All during which the world's ecologically-conscious community will continue to attack Trump for....reasons.

        • Reasons being that he's so much worse environmentally than previous US Presidents, and at least the US population can exert pressure on him and Congress. I have a very tiny impact on how the US is run, and none at all on how China is run.

  • Manmade Climate Change deniers. /s

    Seriously, is there weather modeling software that can do some predictive analysis of what this means to everyone else in the region? And what impact this meddling may have on global weather patters?

    • by CodeHog ( 666724 )
      weather predication is extremely complex and terribly inaccurate the further out in time you go. They have to use multiple models to even get close just a few days out. And those predictions can quickly change. They're getting better though.
  • Desalinization plant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @11:17AM (#56346775)

    Seems a bit more practical to build some desalinization plants. From what I have understood, recent advancements in membrane tech would make it far cheaper than in the past. Plus, there is the added benefit of lithium production.

    https://www.ft.com/content/107... [ft.com]

  • by DrTJ ( 4014489 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @11:30AM (#56346851)

    The collected rain will probably be used for food production and drinking water. If the crops accumulate this silver iodide and then ingested, then what happens?

    It is not entirely safe. From toxnet (https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+2930):

    (It does not mention increased cancer risk, however, and no concentrations are mentioned, and hopefully the concentrations will be small)

    1) MILD TO MODERATE ORAL TOXICITY: Patients with mild
    ingestions may only develop irritation or grade I
    (superficial hyperemia and edema) burns of the
    oropharynx, esophagus or stomach; acute or chronic
    complications are unlikely. Patients with moderate
    toxicity may develop grade II burns (superficial
    blisters, erosions and ulcerations) are at risk for
    subsequent stricture formation, particularly
    esophageal. Some patients (particularly young
    children) may develop upper airway edema.
    a) Alkaline corrosive ingestion may produce burns to the
    oropharynx, upper airway, esophagus and occasionally
    stomach. Spontaneous vomiting may occur. The absence
    of visible oral burns does NOT reliably exclude the
    presence of esophageal burns. The presence of
    stridor, vomiting, drooling, and abdominal pain are
    associated with serious esophageal injury in most
    cases.
    b) PREDICTIVE: The grade of mucosal injury at endoscopy
    is the strongest predictive factor for the occurrence
    of systemic and GI complications and mortality.
    2) SEVERE ORAL TOXICITY: May develop deep burns and
    necrosis of the gastrointestinal mucosa. Complications
    often include perforation (esophageal, gastric, rarely
    duodenal), fistula formation (tracheoesophageal,
    aortoesophageal), and gastrointestinal bleeding.
    Hypotension, tachycardia, tachypnea and, rarely, fever
    may develop. Stricture formation (esophageal, less
    often oral or gastric) is likely to develop long term.
    Esophageal carcinoma is another long term

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @12:29PM (#56347277) Homepage Journal

    about China's intentions when they 'develop' anything in the hinterlands, is how this will assist them in destroying or diminishing the indigenous, non-Chinese, population.

    Especially in Tibet.

  • Aside from the climate effects, what is the effect of putting a lot of siilver in the environment? Is everyone in China going to come down with Argyria? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Isn't silver antimicrobial? Surely that must have an effort on the ecosystem.

  • by jaymemaurice ( 2024752 ) on Thursday March 29, 2018 @01:51PM (#56348105)

    The last time I seeded a cloud, I just had to install OpenStack

  • Also install beavers on every little creek which will help as they build deep ponds that cut into evaporation compared to wide shallow ones while building up water stores and reclaiming land from scrub.

    This from PBS last night.

    Oh, also the beaver family installs will warm your heart.

  • I remember when the US did something like this. There was such an international hue and cry that it was given over. Of course nowadays we have to be nice to totalitarians, so we'll probably not complain.

"It might help if we ran the MBA's out of Washington." -- Admiral Grace Hopper

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