Rain, rain, go away... Olympic city wants to play

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-09 07:05

For a week, Beijingers were picking up their brollies before they stepped out of home as thunderstorms - the heaviest in years - lashed the city.

Initial indications early yesterday pointed to more of the same.

The Central Meteorological Observatory forecast, carried by China Daily among many publications, was for thunderstorms; and Yahoo! Weather said it would be a cloudy day.

"The forecast for August 8 is not too good, but the weather should be fine for the evening ceremony," Song Lianchun, a meteorological official, was quoted as saying by Beijing News.

As the author Patrick Young said about weather gazing: The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.

Yesterday, the sun dawned bright and beautiful in a clear blue sky and city residents were scrambling for another accessory - dark glasses.

It was almost a picture-perfect day for the launch of the celebrations at Tian'anmen Square to mark the one-year countdown to the Games.

So, were the weather gods smiling on the Olympic host city or was it a technological marvel?

There was no official comment on whether weather manipulation was the reason for yesterday's sunny day.

But Beijing Morning Post reported that the Beijing Meteorological Bureau (BMB) had placed 26 artificial cloud-dispersal cannons on alert.

Zhang Qiang, deputy director of the Beijing Weather Manipulation Office, told the newspaper that they were prepared to conduct a "rain prevention" exercise using planes, cannon and rocket launchers to fire chemicals into threatening clouds.

The bureau will fire rockets into the sky, if need be, to control the weather during the 2008 Olympic Games, she said.

Xinhua News Agency reported last night that the weather bureaus of Beijing and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region yesterday conducted a joint drill in Hohhot to disperse clouds and reduce rain during the 2008 Games.

A study of the past 30 years' weather patterns suggests that August 8 has a 50 percent chance of rain and 25 percent likelihood of thunderstorms.

But even technology cannot rule out the possibility of rain during the opening ceremony that day, experts say.

It is powerless against thick masses of clouds that have soaked up large amounts of water, Wang Yubin, deputy chief engineer of the BMB, told China Daily earlier.

"Our experiments and research have shown that we can only artificially reduce the level of rainfall on a comparatively small scale," he added.

For weather manipulation, planes and rockets spread silver iodine and dry ice high in the air, which act as catalysts targeting rain-heavy cumulonimbus clouds and inducing rainfall before the clouds reach Olympic venues.

Another reason for yesterday's fine weather could be the start of autumn - which typically sees few rainy days - according to the lunar calendar. Incidentally, August 8 next year is also the first day of autumn in the calendar.

(China Daily 08/09/2007 page1)

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