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This summer, China set aside $30 million for a controversial project that involves shooting salt-and-mineral-filled bullets into the sky. Their mission? Make it rain. The project is part of a larger campaign of so-called weather modification techniques that the country has been using since at least 2008, when they claim to have cleared the skies for the Beijing Olympics by forcing the rain to come early. China is far from the only nation trying to bring (or stop) the rain.
At least 52 countries — including the United States — have current weather modification programs, 10 more countries than five years ago, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Operation Popeye It all started in the 1940s, when a pair of scientists from General Electric Co. were experimenting with using super-cooled clouds to stimulate the growth of ice crystals while hiking Mount Washington.
The mountain, located in New Hampshire, is often called the “stormiest mountain in the world” and it’s considered a prime spot for cold weather testing. After a series of experiments there and in New York, the two researchers managed to make it rain using silver iodide bullets. They got a patent for their technique, referred to as cloud-seeding, in 1948.