China summons the snow to end drought

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The Independent Online

China's normally dry capital lay covered in a white blanket for a third day yesterday, with Beijing basking in an unusual, artificially induced snowfall.

The snow that began to fall on Tuesday was a product of cloud-seeding, Chinese officials have claimed. It is a method used by the government to induce precipitation to end a three-month drought that has gripped at least 12 Chinese provinces.

Zhang Qiang, from the Beijing Weather Modification Command Centre, said chemicals had been blasted into the clouds to increase the snow. "More than 500 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide were seeded into clouds from 28 weather rocket-launch bases in the city," he told the official Xinhua news agency.

China has used such techniques in the past, though there is little scientific evidence of its effectiveness. Most recently, the government used cloud-seeding to prevent rain from marring the opening ceremony of last year's Olympics. Even Chinese scientists acknowledge that they cannot be sure exactly what effect they are having by blasting clouds with silver iodide. But when it snows, or rains, they take credit.

According to Beijing's meteorological bureau, the snow was due to stop by nightfall, but it led to the closure yesterday of 12 main roads around the city. More than 7,500 workers and 2,211 vehicles were mobilised to remove ice and snow from the capital's streets.

This week's snow proved to be a draw for tourist sites, with a spokesman for the Great Wall saying that double the usual number of tourists had come out to view the snow-covered attraction.