The Tibetan plateau is China’s biggest source of reserve freshwater, and right now it’s running low. To fix the issue, China is testing some state-of-the-art technology that will modify weather conditions to increase the amount of rainfall in the area.
This project involves a huge network of fuel-burning chambers that could potentially increase rainfall in an area that’s about 620,000 square miles—roughly three times the size of Spain. The end result could be an increase of up to 10 billion cubic meters of water. That translates to almost 7 percent of all the freshwater consumption in China.
These fuel chambers will produce silver iodide, which in turn can produce clouds that result in rain and snow. The location is the key, as the chambers will be placed high in the Tibetan mountains and receive a lot of moist, monsoon winds from south Asia.
About 500 units have already been developed and tested, and according to researchers, the results are promising, so far. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is spearheading the project. Aside from the rainfall project, the space and defense contractor also has researchers working on a variety of space projects.
The idea of creating these man-made rain clouds from burning solid fuels isn’t a new idea. The United States has conducted similar experiments. What’s unique about the China project is that it’s by far the largest project of this kind to ever be attempted.
Aside from the fuel chambers, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation will also implement a network of small weather satellites to monitor the monsoon activity in the Indian Ocean, and that data will be used to guide the operations at the fuel chambers in the mountains.
The Tibetan plateau has enormous glaciers and underground reservoirs that feed most of Asia’s largest rivers. In turn, these rivers supply the usable water for nearly half of the world’s population. A water shortage in this regions could prove catastrophic on a global level, so most of the international science community is hoping for success with this project.