Who's to blame for the snow in Beijing?
November 14, 2009 5:59 PM   Subscribe

It's snowing in China. Who's responsible?

To help end a severe drought in northern China, the Beijing Weather Modification Bureau has been using silver iodide to make it snow. It's debatable whether this even works. Nevertheless, it's snowing heavily and many Chinese are not happy about it.

Incidentally, it was the late Bernard Vonnegut (Kurt's brother) who discovered that silver iodide could be used to seed clouds and produce rain.
posted by up in the old hotel (25 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Once and awhile I dream that I've seen something on MetaFilter like, "Fuschia calf born in Jerusalem," or "Supervolcano erupts in Papa New Guinea" or something similarly strange and cataclysmic so when I saw this post just now it took me ten seconds or so to convince me that I hadn't dreamt today.
posted by voronoi at 6:17 PM on November 14, 2009

Who's responsible?

A butterfly flapping its wings in Des Moines. Duh.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:18 PM on November 14, 2009 [14 favorites]

I think we all know who to pin this one on.
posted by jquinby at 6:21 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Snow Miser. Whatever he touches turns to snow in his clutches. Ba-dum-dum-da... bwaaa-da!
posted by steef at 6:24 PM on November 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

We've had two people in Xi'an for a week now who haven't been able to get out to a local oil rig because of the freakin' rain on the crappy roads.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:31 PM on November 14, 2009

And now, a word about this from Alex Jones.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:32 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was under the impression you really couldn't just make a storm appear with cloud seeding, but instead just eek out a little bit more water if you've already got a storm. It would stand to reason that, if what I read a couple years ago was true, then, that they only could have made it snow more, but it was going to snow anyways.
posted by floam at 6:41 PM on November 14, 2009

The CPC is actually Cobra. You know, from GI Joe? This weather manipulation thing is part one in a very special four-part series entitled "Oh My God, They've Fired What Into Where and It's Causing WHAT?" Communism is just a red herring.

Hong Kong is on pins and needles -- literally, because at this point about 50 PPM of our air is actually composed of pins and needles.
posted by milquetoast at 6:53 PM on November 14, 2009 [6 favorites]

Interesting notes from a Scientific American interview:

Can you attribute any one storm to cloud seeding, as the Chinese government has done with this snowstorm?
Generally, you can't look at one individual storm. Would it have snowed anyway? You don't know. NCAR (the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.) is in Wyoming studying several seasons in comparison, where you seed one place and withhold another. Attributing one storm to seeding is very difficult unless the cloud system is incredibly simple, like fog that has no chance of precipitation. If you see snowfall then, that's pretty demonstrative evidence that you succeeded.

Will China's cloud-seeding efforts help to end its drought?
If they are in a drought, they wouldn't be able to draw enough from cloud seeding, just for the lack of clouds. You treat the storms you have, so cloud seeding certainly isn't going to bring you out of a drought. The best time to do cloud seeding is when you have normal levels, or higher-than-normal levels, of precipitation. Then you could save the extra water in a reservoir for when you are in a drought. It certainly won't bring you out of one.
posted by autoclavicle at 7:01 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Out of the bosom of the Air
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
posted by hortense at 7:28 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Who's responsible?

The Mayans.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Who's to blame? This guy will find out.
posted by ericbop at 7:47 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Utah has been seeding its clouds since the '50s.
posted by aniola at 9:07 PM on November 14, 2009

It's not *that* kind of freeze ray.
posted by ooga_booga at 9:16 PM on November 14, 2009

An official from the capital weather modification office who refused to be identified

Uh-huh. Tell me, Mr. Anonymous Weather Modification Official, all about your department's Drought-Ending Cloud-Seeding abilities. And that "not happy about it" link is a hoot; I love the first paragraph:

A meteorological official yesterday acknowledged shortcomings still exist in attempts to modify the weather - after the big mess caused by the artificially induced snow in Beijing on Sunday triggered criticism from an uninformed public.

What garbage. Further down is something almost certainly closer to the truth:

A CMA official who refused to be named told China Daily yesterday that artificial weather is not that effective and some officers and media are exaggerating its impact.

People have been telling me for a week now that Chinese scientists can make it snow on demand, and then are shocked when I've been skeptical. That the Chinese government would pull a lame PR move - "Behold! Your Glorious Government has made it snow for The People!" - is understandable; that so many folks around the world would buy that horseshit is much less so.
posted by mediareport at 9:19 PM on November 14, 2009

Thousands of building have collapsed? Wow. That'd be, like, most of the town where I live. They really need to up the building codes in China.
posted by GuyZero at 9:48 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

They first reported the early snow in late October, maybe? So it's still snowing, apparently, and I could see where that much snow could cause some building collapse problems...

Russia ran into a mishap, too. Maybe they should consult our Utahns.
posted by jenh at 10:18 PM on November 14, 2009

Haidian district in northwest Beijing recorded 18.5 mm of snowfall, the heaviest in the city, according to the NMC.

That's, what, 3/4 of an inch? Living in Victoria, it shouldn't surprise me when otherwise reasonable people utterly lose their shit over a translucent slush that melts in six hours. But it does, every time.
posted by klanawa at 1:26 AM on November 15, 2009

Wait... 18.5mm? I didn't even look at the actual number for the snowfall, I just assumed it was all somehow worth the freak out but I was wrong. Geez. I'm from Minnesota and when I was 4 years old, I trick-or-treated during a blizzard.
posted by autoclavicle at 3:36 AM on November 15, 2009

That's, what, 3/4 of an inch? Living in Victoria, it shouldn't surprise me when otherwise reasonable people utterly lose their shit over a translucent slush that melts in six hours. But it does, every time.

Happens fairly often in D.C., too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:20 AM on November 15, 2009

It's not just how much snow you get, it's how much snow you're used to. Sure, if you live in Minnesota the fact that a foot of snow fell last night is no excuse to stay home from work, but in New Orleans half an inch, which we get every few years, just about shuts down the city. We don't have the equipment to clear the roads, to sand or salt them, and absolutely nobody has snow chains or tires or a freaking clue how to drive on ice. If freeze-vulnerable crops are still out when it happens, we lose them. Businesses and schools will close early or not open at all because doing normal business is impossible. And if we didn't have pretty strong building codes because of the hurricane threat, yeah we'd probably have buildings collapse too.
posted by localroger at 7:16 AM on November 15, 2009

The capital and surrounding areas are little prepared to deal with such heavy snow, with few plows or road deicing supplies

It happens here in NC, too. We get snow that doesn't melt immediately and it is "White alert! White alert!" Sometimes they freak out and cancel school prematurely because the school buses are not allowed to roll when there is an ice alert, and if the school buses don't roll, the school is closed. Often the state runs out of salt and we have to go beg some from Virginia.

However a few years ago we did have a major ice storm and power was knocked out for weeks around these parts. At my house we didn't have power for about 5 days and it was a challenge: bathing, heating food, keeping warm without gas or electricity. We were lucky because we have a fireplace, many were not. If I recall correctly there were a few deaths due to people warming their homes with paraffin heaters and charcoal grills.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:33 AM on November 15, 2009

posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:48 AM on November 15, 2009

Johnny Snow?
posted by The otter lady at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the record, the snow last week was, um, real. I'm from Minnesota too, and I can state without exaggeration that I've seen Real Snow. It was NOT 3/4 of an inch, it was about 4 of them. Twice, with an inch thrown in during the middle of the week just for shits. It's still on the ground, but should disappear in a few more days if the sun stays out. This was flip-out worthy, folks. I got stranded twice without a taxi home, and suffered a week of wet socks.
posted by saysthis at 1:40 AM on November 16, 2009

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