Man-made rain program to secure grain targets

Updated: 2011-12-09 07:47

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China will begin four regional programs to artificially increase precipitation across the country before 2015, according to the newly released 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) for meteorological development.

Together with the existing program in Jilin province, to influence weather in northeastern parts of China, the five regional weather control programs will increase artificial precipitation volume by 10 percent, according to the plan.

Each year, an average of 3 trillion cubic meters of water passes over China in clouds, and only 20 percent of it falls to the ground, according to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA).

Currently, 50 billion cubic meters of rain and snow are gained annually in artificial precipitation, but the volume could reach 280 billion cubic meters if more effective weather intervention measures are taken, according to the CMA.

"Because clouds are boundless, weather control is boundless. The five regional weather control programs will coordinate the ground resources, such as the cloud seeding rockets and planes, across provinces to increase potential rain or snow," said Zheng Jiangping, deputy director of the CMA's department of emergency response, disaster mitigation and public services emergency management.

Zheng said the programs can play an important role in guaranteeing the nation's plan to boost the annual grain yield to 550 million tons by 2020 - that target was exceeded this year with a record 571 million tons.

As extreme weather events such as drought and flooding become more common, protecting the nation's main wheat producing areas grows in urgency - thus the first regional program chose the northeastern parts of the country, including Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang provinces in Northeast China and the eastern part of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in North China.

"The program in Jilin was finished late this year and is working well. The successful operation will accelerate the construction of the other four," Zheng said.

They will cover the northwestern, southern, southwestern and northern parts of China, but a detailed plan has not yet been released, he said.

A national weather intervention command center will also be established before 2015, according to the plan.

Zheng said the national center will focus on scientific research and development of weather control techniques, providing technological support to the regional weather stations and coordinating the country's cross-region weather intervention.

Agricultural experts welcomed the plan, but also cited a need for improving the nation's irrigation system.

Lu Bu, a researcher in agriculture resources and regional planning at the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences, said water shortages are now the biggest obstacle in increasing the country's grain output.

In October last year, when most central and eastern parts of China were experiencing a drought authorities stepped up efforts to produce artificial precipitation. After intense efforts, precipitation in February in seven provinces and municipalities reached 2.2 billion tons, 17 percent of it triggered by weather intervention, according to the administration.