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Study: China ‘modified’ the weather to create clear skies for a political celebration

Dark clouds formed before rain. Source - Ranjithsiji, CC SA 4.0.
Dark clouds formed before rain. Source - Ranjithsiji, CC SA 4.0.

Chinese weather authorities successfully controlled the weather ahead of a major political celebration earlier this year, according to a study by researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

As the 100th anniversary of China’s Communist Party approached in July, the government wanted to make sure that the event was pulled off without a hitch, including ensuring there was good weather for the big day.

And on July 1, 2021, with over 70,000 people crowding into Tiananmen Square, the celebration, led by President Xi, went off successfully under clear skies and lowered pollution levels.

The study published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Science journal and led by environmental science professor, Wang Can, describes a two-hour cloud-seeding operation launched on the eve of the ceremony.

Residents in nearby mountain regions reported seeing rockets shot into the sky on June 30. The paper said the rockets were carrying silver iodine into the sky to stimulate rainfall.

“It was very loud, like thunder, and it went on for a very, very long time … it was like a war zone,” one resident told the South China Morning Post. “Then the rain came down, it was quite heavy.”

The artificial rain reduced the level of PM2.5 air pollutants by more than two-thirds, and shifted the air quality index reading, based on World Health Organization standards, from “moderate” to “good,” according to The Guardian.

100th anniversary of China’s Communist Party Source – 維基小霸王, CC SA 4.0.

‘Blueskying’ is a weather-modification technique

Blueskying is the intentional clearing of smog to ensure blue sky conditions, particularly for important events which provide international prestige.

The technique involves adding chemicals like small particles of silver iodide, to clouds, causing water droplets to cluster around them and increasing the chance of precipitation.

And while cloud seeding is widely used for commercial or agricultural purposes around the world, China is seemingly unique in using weather modification for propaganda purposes. 

The technique was used for Beijing’s 2015 “Parade Blue”, Ningbo’s 2016 “G20 Blue”, and Beijing’s 2018 “One Road One Belt Blue”. But, the most famous example was prior to the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games.

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Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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