Amid Worst Heat Wave Ever, China Shoots Rods Into Clouds

Silver iodide rods intended to spur precipitation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2022 9:55 AM CDT
Amid Worst Heat Wave Ever, China Shoots Rods Into Clouds
A dried riverbed is exposed after the water level dropped in the Yangtze River in Yunyang County in southwest China's Chongqing municipality on Tuesday.   (Chinatopix Via AP)

China is experiencing its worst heat wave on record, a two-month-plus streak that's seeing hundreds of cities and counties experience temps of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. But this extreme weather isn't just causing bodily discomfort. It's helping to dry up the Yangtze River, one of the nation's most vital waterways. Per China's Ministry of Water Resources, the drought is "adversely affecting drinking water security of rural people and livestock, and the growth of crops" through the river basin," reports CNN. Now, the country is taking aggressive measures to try to get the Yangtze back on track, including by shooting silver iodide rods into the air to help form ice crystals in the clouds and spur precipitation.

One of the latest areas to announce such efforts: Hubei province, where the 4.2 million people there have been suffering through a severe drought since June, according to the province's emergency management unit. Nearly one million acres of crops have been destroyed there since the drought began. The Australian government agency CSIRO notes the intense heat has likely emerged out of a "special case" of high pressure that's now stretching over a good portion of Asia. The high temps and resulting parched conditions are leading to not only cloud-seeding operations across China, but also attempts to ration energy supplies to homes and businesses.

Radio Free Asia reports that's the M.O. currently underway in Sichuan in the southwest. In that province, hydropower—i.e., power dependent on water flow from the Yangtze and its tributaries—makes up four-fifths of the power capacity, per Reuters. Besides the cloud seeding and energy rationing, livestock now wandering on drought-stricken land across China are being temporarily moved to better locations, and the country's Ministry of Finance has promised to provide about $44 million in disaster relief. For the next 10 days, the nation's Three Gorges Dam will also boost water release by 500 million cubic meters to help supplies downstream. (More Yangtze River stories.)

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