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China: Made-in-China Snow

This past Sunday on Nov. 1, Beijing saw its earliest snowfall in 22 years. The sudden change in weather, which blanketed the entire city in snow, surprised many residents. But the news media later reported that the snowfall had actually been enhanced by the city’s weather modification office.


The reasoning behind the forced precipitation was because Beijing had been experiencing a drought. The night before the snow, the government had fired silver iodide into the skies. The resulting effect increased the amount of snow by 16 million tons.

“We won’t miss any opportunity of artificial precipitation since Beijing is suffering from the lingering drought,” said Zhang Qiang, the head of the weather modification office, to the state media.

China has a history of artificially inducing rain, usually in cases to stop drought. At other times, the weather modification office has reduced the rain to ensure clear skies, such as during the National Day parade in October or the Beijing Olympic Games.

Netizens have been divided in their opinions about this past weekend’s man-made snow. Some wrote gleefully about its beauty, like blogger, 鱼干儿.


Beijing’s weather is unimaginably fantastic. Without warning, it began to snow. And it was the kind of snow that couldn’t be easily cleaned up and managed. I heard that the snow was man-made. But I don’t care. We love this kind of weather.

Some, however, have been more annoyed. Wrote 小米


After I heard that it was man made, I had to wonder who was the person who thought this was a good time for it to snow? Everywhere people have been caught off guard by the cold and the other thorny problems related to power, traffic and heating.

On an Internet forum, one user complained that the government should have warned people ahead of time, adding that many of the flights at the airport were delayed.

要我说,这种人定胜天的精神是好的,虽然北 京人都“被冬天”了,如果真能解除北方旱情也算是功德一桩。就是没通知大家的气象局太不地道。

In my view, this type of ‘man can conquer nature’ spirit is good, even though Beijing residents were “winterized.” If they can really solve the damage wrought by the drought then this has its merits. But the way the weather bureau didn’t inform anyone ahead of time isn’t quite right.

A few posts made on the Internet have also expressed worry over what kind of effects the unnatural snow might have on the environment. One blogger, 天边的云, wondered if anyone has the right to alter the weather.

但是,在我们还不能完全掌握天气变化的规律时,就盲目改变局部的天气,是否会对 整个环境造成更大的不利影响呢?比如,这次因为北京缺水,就让原本要下到山东(假设而已)的雪在北京下了,会不会造成山东更缺水呢?

But when we blindly alter the weather without having yet to master its laws, will this do greater damage to the environment as a whole? For example, the snowfall that happened this time was because Beijing was suffering from a drought. What if this snow was originally meant to fall on Shandong (let’s just pretend for a moment), instead of Beijing. Will this cause an even bigger drought in Shandong?

Alex Pasternack, a blogger and journalist in Beijing, wrote a post on Tree Hugger elaborating on what kind of effects the man-made precipitation might have.

The drought has affected 800,000 hectares of farmland by the end of October, official sources estimated, and the snow storm was said to be a much-needed boon to local farmers.

But not all farmers in the region benefited. One possible side effect of weather modification is that it diverts precipitation from other regions that need it too, for the sake of creating stronger storms in a focused area.

Other netizens have poked fun at the snow. Elizabeth Kain wrote on her blog:

Yesterday's snow was the earliest in ten years. I am sure my mother, who sat in the Beijing Airport for 7 hours as all flights in and out of the city were disrupted or cancelled, would be happy to know her inconvenience was state induced.

Another comment about the snow also made an astute observation:

Martin M. November 2, 2009 3:30 pm

Everything is made in China, even snow.

1 comment

  • Mathias

    Some international forecasts had predicted snow for Beijing days before. Beijing forecasts had no snow and you would think they would have known first, if it was state-induced snow.

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