Find out how China is using weather modification to increase rainfall and snowfall.

It’s been a rainy spring in the southeastern U.S., but it’s no secret that drought happens – and, unfortunately, it tends to sneak up on its victims, with its impact often felt for months or even years.

The Chinese know this all too well. To combat the low rainfall and resulting drought-like conditions in the Tibetan plateau and increase harvest productivity and food production in the area, the Chinese government is launching the world’s largest weather-control machine. The machine will have the ability to modify the weather in an area similar to the size of Alaska (approximately 620,000 square miles).

The high-tech, satellite-controlled system, developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., works by seeding clouds with silver iodide particles that trigger them to release moisture, according to the New Scientist. The process involves positioning burner devices at the base of mountain ranges to send gusts of hot fumes and iodide upward into the sky, prompting clouds to produce ice crystals that fall to Earth as rain and snow.

The burners, costing about $8,000 each and activated by a network of 30 satellites that record activity in the Indian Ocean, can be switched on when a mass of moist air comes over the Himalayan chain.

Although it’s too soon to determine if the system will be successful, researchers have estimated that it has the potential to increase rainfall – or melt water from snow – per year by 10 trillion, amounting to about 7 percent of the mainland of China’s total water consumption.

Weather Modification in the United States

Newsweek reports that the U.S. has “executed similar tests,” but they have been on a much smaller scale, and some experts have expressed concern for the geopolitical implications that may arise if one country can control the weather and climate.

The North American Weather Modification Council (NAWMC) was created on January 25, 2011 as a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation under the Texas Business Organizations Code. Its purpose is to advance and promote the proper use of weather modification technologies through education and research.

For more information regarding weather modification or cloud seeding practices, check out the FAQs from the NAWMC. With more research, maybe one day this will be a viable tool in the repertoire of American agriculture.

Looking for simple, cost-effective ways to protect your operation against droughts? Consider using windbreaks, implementing low-till or no-till practices, and using cover crops.