China may have to worry about clouds
of smog and black
soot due to its lax environmental policies and large scale adoption of
inefficient partial-combustion obsolete technologies, but one thing it won't
have to worry about at the 2008 Beijing Olympics this August is rain – that is if
everything goes according to plan.
China is leveraging its significant military resources to wage a war against Mother
Nature. China plans to deploy 20 anti-aircraft (AA) guns around the city, firing a steady barrage of special payloads
containing silver iodide and dry ice into cloud cover, whenever it should
appear. The Chinese hope that this novel strategy will help make the
Olympics rain free and perhaps give it a chance to show
off its military prowess.
The country is so confident in
its rain fighting powers that the 91,000-seat Olympic stadium, nicknamed
the "Bird's Nest," has no roof. The efforts are being led by
the city's Weather Modification Office, a sub-branch of the China
Meteorological Administration. The AA/rocket launcher assault is only one
phase of a three-pronged assault the Office plans to deploy against
The first phase is detection. China will use satellites, planes, and
radar to track incoming weather. It will also leverage the power of an
IBM p575 supercomputer, which the city purchased last year. The computer
is capable of doing a modest 9.8 trillion floating point operations per second
and has enough power to accurately model by the kilometer hourly reports for
the entire 44,000 square kilometer (17,000 square mile) Beijing area.
Upon detection, the second phase will commence, starting with a barrage from 20
ground-based sites encircling the stadium. Two aircraft will also be
scrambled to spray dry ice and silver iodide into the clouds in an attempt to
stop them from reaching the stadium.
If rain manages to break through these barriers, China will deploy its weapon of
last resort: liquid nitrogen.
Aircraft will pummel the clouds with liquid nitrogen. This, according to
officials, will increase the number of droplets in the cloud, but reduce their
size, making them less likely to fall. Officials hope this last ditch
effort might hold off the clouds long enough for them to pass safely over the
stadium before releasing rain.
There is a 50 percent chance of precipitation during any day that month,
according to past trends. The games will occur during Northeast Asia's
rainy season. Zhang Qian, head of Beijing's Weather Modification Office,
warns that past results for weather modification during heavy rain haven't
always been successful. However, he optimistically mentions, "the
results with light rain have been satisfactory."
The Chinese government is working very hard to try to make the games a
demonstration in the countries newfound power and prosperity. The
government spent $40B USD bringing 120,000 migrant workers (at $130 per month)
into Beijing for the massive construction projects planned, starting in 2001. In
all, 1.5 million people will be displaced by the new construction
China, with a population of 1.32 billion, has a penchant for
excess; featuring the world's largest dam, the world's highest railroad, and in
2009, the world's largest Ferris wheel. China's weather modification
program will also be the largest in the world, when fully deployed. It
will feature over 1,500 weather modification professionals who will coordinate
30 aircraft and their crews, and a ground force of 37,000 part-time workers,
mostly peasant farmers.