Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On Shitty Weather and Artificial Rain

Okay okay, I've failed so far in my original plan to update "frequently". I had such high hopes! Good job to everyone else for actually keeping up. I'm really going to try to be better from now on.

The Weather and Overall Atmosphere of Beijing.

I like to gauge how nice a day will be based on how far I can see into the distance outside. Basically, there is nothing to see. The "sky" is a constant gray fog, this thick soupy mess you try to swim through, while your lungs feel like they're constantly under attack. Apparently there's something called "foreigner's cough", this incurable and unavoidable condition you catch if you're a foreigner staying in China. It's passed through most of my friends here, but I've managed to retain this cough for the past 2 weeks, and counting. It doesn't appear to be getting better.

Since I've arrived in Beijing, which now amounts to just over a month!, I want to say I've seen 3 or 4, maybe, blue skies and sunny days. I never used to think that weather could severely have an impact on a person's attitude and feelings, but turns out it is entirely possible, seeing as I often have little desire to leave my room and venture out into the murk.

For example, check out some of the cool architecture I've passed in Beijing. Note that I took the first two in the middle of the day , and it is still that dark with smog.
On another unpleasant day, my program decides to take us to the Summer Palace, or 颐和园。
This place is supposed to be really beautiful, what with lots of bridges, trees, water, a stone boat...etc etc. However... because of the air... my pictures end up looking like this:
Notice how everything in the distance is heavily obscured in all the pictures of this post.

There's actually a lot more to the weather issue.

China is number one when it comes to weather modification. Literally, I am living in a society where the weather is man made and manufactured. Rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weaponry (mostly given to farmers) shoot rounds of silver iodide particles into unsuspecting clouds above. The water up there then clings on to the silver iodide particles and become heavy enough to fall down, causing this incessant rain that Beijing has been experiencing every day (literally) for the past 2.5 weeks. It rains usually for an hour or two every day, but seemingly without fail, every day.

Weather modification in China originally began years ago to create artificial rain to address severe drought issues around the country. Agriculture is one of the main, if not the most important aspect of the economy here. This still goes on.

In Beijing however, the artificial rain is part of the effort (and I would say frantic effort) to reduce the smog, toxins, and pollution in the air--all for the Olympics. It also is in part to lower the temperature (usually around 31 degrees C) to what is now the average for this summer, more like 27 degrees C. While that doesn't seem like a big difference, in Celsius even one degree is valued at alot more than at Fahrenheit.

So has there been any change? Well, the temperature is significantly cooler than what I expected. I've even had to buy a jacket for the occasional nighttime chill or rainy day. (I didn't bring any in my suitcase because I was not expecting it to be anything but blisteringly hot, as I've both been warned and recall from previous trips in years past) However, the pollution certainly isn't any better. In fact, the thought of people in Beijing constantly ingesting silver iodide affected rain is quite disconcerting. I mean, hell, I am one of those people, and I already feel like shit from the various other things wrong with me because of staying here, haha.

One last thing,
China has publicly announced their plans to prevent any rain from falling on any Olympic game this year.

Ah, good ol' cloud blasting.