As the 100th anniversary of China's Communist Party approached in July, the government wanted to make sure that the event was pulled off without a hitch—including ensuring there was good weather for the big day. Which is why researchers out of Tsinghua University are now saying that officials infused the clouds over Beijing with chemicals to make it rain the night before the July 1 centenary celebration, clearing out the skies and reducing air pollution in and around Tiananmen Square, reports the Sunday Times.
The so-called blueskying practice was documented in a peer-reviewed study in the Chinese journal Environmental Science, which notes that the two-hour cloud-seeding experiment took place on the evening of June 30, which is when locals reported seeing rockets fired into the air, per the South China Morning Post. The rockets were said to be loaded with silver iodide, which attracts clusters of water droplets and causes rain to fall. "It was very loud, like thunder, and it went on for a very, very long time ... it was like a war zone," one resident tells the paper. "Then the rain came down, it was quite heavy."
The initiative was an apparent success, in what had been one of China's wettest summers on record. The day of July 1 was cloudy, but no rain came until the afternoon, after the parade and accompanying festivities had ended. As for pollution, the Tsinghua University researchers found that the artificially produced rain had the effect of temporarily slashing the amount of fine particulate matter in the air by two-thirds, causing the air quality reading to jump from what the World Health Organization deems "moderate" to "good," per the Guardian.
China has long been a fan of such cloud-seeding projects, forking over billions to guarantee agreeable weather to protect crops and also before other major events, such as the 2008 Olympics, and it has big plans to expand on its weather modification program. However, the Times notes that while other nations have used blueskying for agricultural purposes, China is seemingly the only one that's done so for propaganda reasons. And while it seems on the surface to be an easy way to play God with the weather, some warn that using such technology can upend weather patterns in neighboring regions. (Read more China stories.)