Ex­perts pour cold wa­ter on cloud seed­ing plans

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By ZHENG XIN zhengxin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Plans have been un­veiled to ex­plore the use of weather ma­nip­u­la­tion tech­niques to re­duce air pol­lu­tion over Bei­jing, but ex­perts have urged cau­tion, cit­ing the risks of sec­ondary pol­lu­tion.

Of­fi­cials in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal are aim­ing to adapt fea­si­ble me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions — in­clud­ing the cre­ation of ar­ti­fi­cial rain by means of cloud seed­ing — to cut down on air pol­lu­tion, ac­cord­ing to a Xin­hua News Agency re­port.

Lin Ke­qing, deputy mayor of Bei­jing, was quoted as say­ing on Tues­day that the city is seek­ing to con­duct sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments on the use of weather ma­nip­u­la­tion to beat pol­lu­tion. He made the re­marks dur­ing a con­fer­ence on the mod­ern­iza­tion of me­te­o­rol­ogy but did not elab­o­rate on the plans.

Ac­cord­ing to Guo Xueliang, who works for the weather mod­i­fi­ca­tion center of the China Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the main mea­sures un­der con­sid­er­a­tion in­clude cloud seed­ing and the re­moval of smog by ar­ti­fi­cial means.

The de­ci­sion came af­ter a doc­u­ment re­leased by the China Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion last month, say­ing that all provin­cial­level me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal bu­reaus should be ca­pa­ble of ar­ti­fi­cially re­duc­ing smog by 2015.

How­ever, some weather ex­perts are not pos­i­tive about the pro­pos­als.

Feng Yongfeng, founder of the Bei­jing- based en­vi­ron­men­tal NGO Green Bea­gle,

It’s okay to blow away the smog through weather ma­nip­u­la­tion once or twice, but it’s not ac­cept­able as a long-term so­lu­tion.” FENG YONGFENG FOUNDER OF THE BEI­JING-BASED EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL NGO GREEN BEA­GLE

said weather ma­nip­u­la­tion is not only against the laws of na­ture, but would re­sult in sec­ondary con­tam­i­na­tion of soil and wa­ter.

The cre­ation of ar­ti­fi­cial rain­fall in­volves re­leas­ing chem­i­cal sub­stances such as sil­ver io­dide into the air to en­cour­age the for­ma­tion of rain drops — a process known as cloud seed­ing. How­ever, th­ese chem­i­cals would then fall to earth, pol­lut­ing soil and wa­ter, Feng said.

Such sub­stances could cause dan­ger­ous heavy-metal pol­lu­tion and would pro­vide only tem­po­rary relief for air pol­lu­tion prob­lems, he said.

“It’s like tak­ing medicine. De­spite the mo­men­tary cu­ra­tive ef­fects, the side ef­fects can­not be cal­cu­lated, while pos­ing threats to the pu­ri­fy­ing ca­pac­i­ties of the soil and wa­ter.

“It’s okay to blow away the smog through weather ma­nip­u­la­tion once or twice, but it’s not ac­cept­able as a long-term so­lu­tion,” he said.

The gov­ern­ment should con­duct care­ful stud­ies be­fore im­ple­ment­ing such meth­ods, he said, adding that the key lies in the re­duc­tion of emis­sions, eco­nomic tran­si­tion and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion, which will take decades.

A re­searcher with the In­sti­tute of Pol­icy and Man­age­ment of the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, said on con­di­tion of anonymity that weather ma­nip­u­la­tion is still a very sen­si­tive topic and that lim­ited re­search has been con­ducted into it.

“Un­less it’s nec­es­sary, it’s bet­ter not to in­ter­fere with or dis­turb the weather, and it’s pos­si­ble we might be­come de­pen­dent on th­ese chem­i­cal fixes and re­sort to them when­ever the pol­lu­tion wors­ens,” he said.

Wu Zhenghua, a re­tired re­searcher from the Bei­jing Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Bureau, said such pol­lu­tion clear­ance mea­sures were fea­si­ble as small-scale sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments, and might have short-term ef­fects.

But the gov­ern­ment should also take into con­sid­er­a­tion the con­sid­er­able costs in terms of equip­ment and the risks of sec­ondary pol­lu­tion, Wu said.

Apart from at­tempts at weather ma­nip­u­la­tion, Bei­jing will en­hance the mon­i­tor­ing and fore­cast­ing of the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, Lin, the deputy mayor, was quoted as say­ing.

Bei­jing plans to set up more than 200 new au­to­matic me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ob­ser­va­tion sta­tions by 2015, ac­cord­ing to ear­lier me­dia re­ports. Wu Wencong con­trib­uted to this story.

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