With severe drought gripping much of central China this winter, authorities there didn't just sit back and let Mother Nature scrimp on the rain. They blasted it out of the sky, with thousands of rockets launched from pickup trucks.
As some of China's farming regions faced their worst winter rainfall shortage in six decades, authorities throughout the country turned to cloud seeding — where tiny particles of silver iodide are shot into clouds to trigger the ice crystals that eventually become rain. While using planes to dump silver iodide can help large areas, many provinces rely on rockets launched from pickup beds, a cheaper solution.
While U.S. officials rarely use cloud seeding over liability concerns, China has been far more aggressive in taking control of its weather. Over the past few months, officials in Shandong province alone launched 5,800 rockets and flares, part of a nationwide campaign to alleviate the irrigation demands on the nation's groundwater.
The results? Many drought-stricken areas had snow or rain in late February, helping to ease worries that a catastrophe in the winter wheat fields that supply grain to 1.3 billion people.