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.
Some, however, have been more annoyed. Wrote 小米：
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.
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.
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.