Few of us can forecast or second-guess the activities of Mother Nature, yet meteorologists in China have declared some degree of success with experiments using liquid nitrogen to ensure that the opening of the Olympic Games in August is rain-free.

While much has been made of China’s attempts to reduce pollution ahead of the Olympics, a team of scientist have also been working away with the remit of reducing rainfall and guaranteeing that the event’s opening goes as smoothly as possible.

In efforts to curb rainfall, the scientists have been seeding clouds with liquid nitrogen or silver iodide, depending on temperatures. Clouds below freezing were sprayed with a liquid nitrogen-based coolant that breaks droplets down into smaller sizes, while those above freezing temperatures received silver iodide to produce a cloud-suppressing downdraft by speeding the process of droplet coalescence.

Beijing Meteorological Bureau Deputy Chief Wang Jian Jie announced at a recent news conference, that the group’s groundbreaking scientific exploits were beginning to pay dividends.
“Since 2006, we've been doing some experiments using seeding to reduce rain precipitation. We've been comparing results and they have improved,” he said.

As the meteorologists work on manipulating the weather later this year, officials across the country have been struggling to cope with the worst winter the country has seen in decades. Heavy snowfalls and freezing conditions have left hundreds of thousands of people without power, while the outages have led to the cancellation of trains as millions of migrant workers try to head home for the Lunar New Year holiday season.

It is hoped that the innovative initiative to control Mother Nature will ensure the Olympic Games get off to the best possible start, but other climate experts doubt the practicality of the efforts. Climatology and water resources expert, Professor Roger Stone from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), admits that previous attempts to enhance rainfall have shown promise but remains unconvinced by this latest development.

“I was in Beijing one year before the Olympics are due to start this year, and sure enough, Beijing was hit by particularly intense thunderstorms and what we call strong convective activity. I can see there would be some interest in reducing that type of storm activity, because that could indeed have some impact on the running of the games,” he said.

“But to be honest, I'm not aware of the scientific validity of turning it the other way around, although I could see there may be processes that could be put in place to reduce precipitation in some circumstances.”