I Heard Beijing is Beautiful this Time of Year… All that Snow

[picapp src=”d/d/5/0/Beijing_Embraces_First_aca9.jpg?adImageId=7406845&imageId=6949573″ width=”500″ height=”345″ /]

BEIJING – NOVEMBER 01: Two bicycles are seen covered in snow on November 1, 2009 in Beijing, China. The Chinese capital embraced its first heavy snowfall in winter. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Better late than never, I suppose.  In what was a busy start to November for yours truly, I missed that Beijing, China experienced their earliest winter snowfall since 1987.  They have since received more snow with Shijiazhuang in the Hebei province of north China tallying 19 inches from the most recent storm.  This is starting to cause some major problems in the country.  Information from China is always a little tough to gather accurately, but it appears there have been a few fatalities due to the storm and dozens of injuries.  These are likely a result of car accidents or building collapses.

The tangential headline from this early season storm was the claim that China’s government created the first snowfall through cloud seeding (via Cloudy and Cool).  This is something that came up during the Olympics last year.  I believe China claimed they could stop rain from occurring during the games.  Well, I know for a fact that didn’t work.  I distinctly remember watching Misty May and Kerri Walsh defend beach volleyball gold in the rain.  Of course, I was watching it for the competition and not because there were scantily-clad ladies playing beach volleyball in the rain. 🙂  I don’t recall anything being canceled because of weather, but it wasn’t sunny and dry everyday either.

The basic physics of precipitation say that water droplets or ice crystals remain in the cloud until they become too large to stay suspended by the upward motion within the cloud.  At that point, they begin to fall out, producing precipitation (provided the air below the cloud isn’t too dry).  Without getting into the specifics of cloud seeding (you can read more about it in the first link of the previous paragraph), my understanding is the prospect of man-made precipitation is very limited.  The best example I remember from learning about cloud seeding prior to the Summer Olympics is this: it might be able to push large cloud droplets/ice crystals over the threshold and create drizzle/light snow (or vice-versa to prevent precip), but it can’t create or prevent a major – or even meaningful – precipitation event.  And I’m not sure it can do anything at all.

Now, I should note that the Chinese government only claimed responsibility for the first snowfall pictured above.  It does not take any responsibility for the more recent storms, which have significantly impacted the area.  The problem is, once you claim responsibility for a weather event, the conspiracy theories are going to fly with every subsequent storm, drought, heat wave, cold wave, etc.  Actually, that would be really entertaining.  Maybe this would be a fun experiment.

(By the way, kudos if you get the reference in the title of the post.)

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