The Beijing Weather Modification Office is now denying that it played any role in snow storms this month that have caused $650 million in damage and more than 40 deaths.
Earlier, news agencies had reported that weather management bureau had seeded clouds with silver iodide to promote precipitation. Looks as if the agency gave the country an overdose prompting one disgusted Chinese blogger quoted in the Wall Street Journal to exclaim: “The weather belongs to everyone, not just to the ‘Department of Artificial Interference with the Weather.'”
But the Journal now quotes experts saying that it isn’t possible to launch storms of this magnitude. In any event, as the extent of the damage unfolds, China, which likes to manage everything from currency to family size, is suddenly backtracking on its earlier claims as well. Here is how the story unfolded over the past week:
Beijing’s airport canceled more than 60 flights and delayed more than 120 others today as the heaviest snowfall in the Chinese capital in at least 54 years blanketed the city for the third day this month.
Tens of thousands of vehicles and people were stranded on highways linking the city with the surrounding provinces of Shanxi, Hebei, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia, according to state news agency Xinhua. Three children in Hebei province were killed and 28 others injured when accumulated snow caused a primary school cafeteria’s roof to collapse, Xinhua reported separately.
Bloomberg then cites a Chinese official explaining how the bureaucracy had caused the storms:
The government induced snowfall in the capital on Nov. 10 by seeding clouds with silver iodide, the China Daily newspaper reported yesterday, citing an unidentified official at the Beijing Weather Modification Office.
Zhang Qiang, head of the office, said the agency induced snow on Nov. 1 by seeding clouds with 186 doses of silver iodide, according to a separate Xinhua report. The seeding brought an additional 16 million tons of snow, according to the report. Beijing takes every opportunity to induce precipitation as the city is suffering from drought, Xinhua cited Zhang as saying.
The Economist calls this version of managed precipitation: “Snow, the public option.” Or you can think of it as a Chinese-sized lesson in the law of unintended consequences.
(h/t @mbusigin via @InEgoVeritas)
Photo from chinadaily.com