China is seeding clouds to replenish its dwindling Yangtze River

China is seeding clouds to replenish its dwindling Yangtze River
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Several regions on the Yangtze have launched weather modification programs, but with cloud cover too thin, operations in some drought-ravaged parts of the river basin have been put on hold.

The Ministry of Water Resources said in a notice on Wednesday that the drought in the entire Yangtze River Basin was “adversely affecting the drinking water security of rural people and livestock, and the growth of crops.”

On Wednesday, central China’s Hubei province became the latest to announce it would seed clouds, using silver iodide rods to induce rain.

Silver iodide rods, which are usually the size of cigarettes, are shot into existing clouds to help form ice crystals. The crystals then help the cloud produce more rain, making its moisture content heavier and more likely to be released.

Cloud seeding has been in practice since the 1940s and China has the largest program in the world. He used seeding ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to ensure dry weather for the event, and the technique can also be used to induce snowfall or soften hail.

Scientists in the US are flying planes into the clouds to make it snow more

At least 4.2 million people in Hubei have been affected by severe drought since June, the Hubei Provincial Emergency Management Department said on Tuesday. There, more than 150,000 people have difficulty accessing drinking water and nearly 400,000 hectares of crops have been damaged by high temperatures and drought.

The Yangtze is just one of many rivers and lakes across the northern hemisphere that are drying up and shrinking amid unrelenting heat and low rainfall, including Lake Mead in the US and the Rhine River in Germany. These extreme weather conditions have been supercharged by the human-induced climate crisis, fueled by the burning of fossil fuels.

Communities often depend on these water bodies for economic activity and governments have to step in with adaptation measures and relief funds, costing huge amounts of money.

China is deploying such funds and developing new sources of supply to deal with impacts on crops and livestock. Some of the cattle have been temporarily relocated to other regions, the Finance Ministry said earlier this week, adding that it would issue 300 million yuan ($44.30 million) in disaster aid.

To boost downstream supplies, the Three Gorges Dam, China’s largest hydropower project, will also increase water discharges by 500 million cubic meters over the next 10 days, the Ministry of Water Resources said on Tuesday.

The heat also forced authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan, home to around 84 million people and a key manufacturing hub, order the closure of all factories for six days this week to ease the power shortage.

‘Longest’ and ‘strongest’ heat wave on record

China issued its highest red-alert heat warning for at least 138 cities and counties across the country on Wednesday, with another 373 placed under the second-highest orange alert, the Meteorological Administration said.

Children beat the heat at a gated community in Huzhou city, in China's Zhejiang province, on August 12, 2022.

As of Monday, China’s heat wave had lasted 64 days, making it the longest in more than six decades, since full records began in 1961, the National Climate Center said in a statement. He also said it was the “strongest” on record and warned it could get worse in the coming days.

“The heat wave this time is prolonged, wide-ranging and extremely strong,” the statement read. “Taking all the signs together, the heat wave in China will continue and its intensity will increase.”

The heat wave has also seen the most counties and cities exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) since records began, according to the statement. The number of weather stations recording temperatures of 40°C or higher has reached 262, also the highest. Eight have reached 44C.

Persistently high temperatures are forecast to continue in the Sichuan Basin and much of central China through August 26.

A “special case” of high pressure from the western Pacific subtropical high, which stretches across much of Asia, is likely to be the cause of the extreme heat, said Cai Wenju, a climate researcher at CSIRO, the country’s national scientific research institute. Australia.

CNN’s Larry Register, Angela Dewan and Laura He contributed to this report.

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