Did you know that the Winter Olympics in Beijing are starting on February 4? Even though we were all celebrating those compact little patriots on the U.S. Gymnastics Team just a few months ago? Where is my mind?
Every four years, the Winter Olympics present a new city with the challenge of creating the perfect cozy winter vibe — and that means snow. Most winter Olympics require some quantity of artificial snow-making (remember the subtropical winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, notably once the locale of Stalin’s beach house?), but according to the Washington Post, the Chinese government is taking controlling the weather to a new level.
The Post suggests that The Beijing Weather Modification Office, a division of the China Meteorological Association Weather Modification Center, “could step in to create rain, disperse storms, and even turn the sky blue.” The scientist-backed stimulation of rainfall comes via a technology known as “cloud-seeding,” which is a process that infuses particles like silver iodides, which attract water droplets, to clouds. The resulting rain can hypothetically clear smog and pollution, though the efficacy of this process is “to say the least, debatable,” according to the Post. The Chinese government has done this before: at the 2008 Summer Olympics, also in Beijing, the science boys fired rockets at clouds to keep them from floating above the Beijing National Stadium during the Opening Ceremonies.
China’s been ramping up the cloud-seeding program, and recently announced its goal to trigger rain over two million square miles. Chinese president Xi Jinping has also dabbled in “blueskying,” or launching rockets into clouds to create clear weather, most notably for the Communist Party’s centennial celebration last July.
Of course, all of this brings up a variety of ethical issues, as the long-term effects of weather modification for the climate and for ecosystems around the globe are largely unknown.
“In China, clouds are no longer seen merely as an atmospheric weather feature. Instead, clouds are now regarded as a water resource for human exploitation,” Shiuh-Shen Chien, an activist and an environmental professor in geography at National Taiwan University, told The Post.