Asia’s largest waterway, the Yangtze River, is now at record lows amid a historic drought and record-breaking heat wave in China, as the country is now trying to stimulate rainfall with cloud seeding jets.
The extreme weather events caused by the climate crisis have hit the country in two ways – a heat wave has increased energy demand, while drought has affected hydroelectric reservoirs, almost half of which have been forced out of business.
As a result, large swathes of the country are facing power supply shortages with prolonged power outages and worsening water levels, while heavy flooding has been reported in other areas.
The Ministry of Water Resources said in a notice on Wednesday that drought across the Yangtze River Basin “negatively affects the drinking water security of rural residents, livestock and crop growth.”
To combat the dual challenge, the country is trying to artificially cause rainfall using cloud seeding.
Several areas along the Yangtze River have launched missiles into the sky in recent days in order to “seed” the clouds with chemicals in an effort to make them produce more rain, according to Chinese media.
Hubei Province was the latest province to attempt to artificially modify the weather, announcing on Wednesday that it would use silver iodide rods.
In the cloud seeding process, the tiny silver iodide rods that are released into the cloud will act as a moisture-increasing agent, increasing the potential for their release. These rods usually have a structure similar to ice and provide a base for snowflakes to form.
Cloud seeding has been in practice for nearly eight decades now. China has the world’s largest cloud seeding program and has used this technology in the past, including during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
However, its effectiveness is debatable and the process contains many risk factors, including an unknown long-term effect on weather patterns.
However, the country is currently in a desperate state for solutions as extreme weather events have affected millions of people, along with severely impacting the energy and agriculture sector as well as the economy.
The energy crisis has led to many factories closing or suspending their commercial activities and the government issuing orders to limit electricity use.
More than 150,000 people in Hubei province alone are facing difficulties accessing drinking water as thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed or damaged by the protracted heat wave and drought.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports in recent years have included China among the countries that could be most affected by global warming.
Surface air temperature has increased in the last century across Asia, causing stronger, more frequent and longer heat waves. Government data shows that the heatwave in China lasted 64 days, making it the longest since full records began in 1961.
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