China Hopes, and Tries, for Rain-Free Festivities

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BEIJING — As nearly 190,000 dancers, politicians, soldiers and fighter pilots prepared for the highly synchronized extravaganza marking the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on Thursday, perhaps no one was feeling more performance anxiety than Guo Hu, Beijing’s chief weatherman.

While meteorologists in much of the world are simply charged with forecasting rain or shine, Mr. Guo and his colleagues at the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Station were also responsible for making sure the weather is of the crowd-pleasing variety. “If we make a mistake with our work, the impact will be huge,” Mr. Guo, a soft spoken scientist, told a news conference this week. “We are under a lot of pressure.”...

... During the Olympics, technicians fired off 1,100 rockets that delivered chemical catalysts into a band of clouds, and, according to the Chinese media, provoked rainfall that might have otherwise soaked the opening ceremonies.

Last winter, as drought parched Beijing and the surrounding countryside, aging antiaircraft batteries on the city’s outskirts shot more than 500 pencil-thin sticks of silver iodide into the heavens. Coincidentally or not, three days of snowfall graced the capital soon after.

Cloud seeding, as its known, is not an exact science. In fact, many scientists in the United States remain dubious over claims that humans can increase precipitation or forestall bad weather. But such cynicism has not dampened China’s enthusiasm for rainmaking.

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