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CHINA\'S new National Stadium, the centrepiece of the Beijing Olympics and better known as the Bird\'s Nest, was opened to international media for the first time today.
A roof was included in the original stadium design, but was cut out of plans in 2004 as a cost-cutting measure. The Beijing meteorological office is experimenting with rain-prevention measures to stop wet weather spoiling the opening ceremony.
First, Beijing's Weather Modification Office will track the region's weather via satellites, planes, radar, and an IBM p575 supercomputer, purchased from Big Blue last year, that executes 9.8 trillion floating point operations per second. It models an area of 44,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) accurately enough to generate hourly forecasts for each kilometer.
Then, using their two aircraft and an array of twenty artillery and rocket-launch sites around Beijing, the city's weather engineers will shoot and spray silver iodide and dry ice into incoming clouds that are still far enough away that their rain can be flushed out before they reach the stadium.
Finally, any rain-heavy clouds that near the Bird's Nest will be seeded with chemicals to shrink droplets so that rain won't fall until those clouds have passed over. Zhang Qian, head of Beijing's Weather Modification Office, explains, "We use a coolant made from liquid nitrogen to increase the number of droplets while decreasing their average size. As a result, the smaller droplets are less likely to fall, and precipitation can be reduced." August is part of Northeast Asia's rainy season; chances of precipitation over Beijing on any day that month will approach 50 percent. Still, while tests with clouds bearing heavy rain loads haven't always been successful, Qian claims that "the results with light rain have been satisfactory."