Image: China snow
Ng Han Guan  /  AP
The snow-blanketed Forbidden City is seen in Beijing, China, on Wednesday. City authorities said snow which fell on Tuesday was artificially induced in an attempt to reduce the effects of a drought.
updated 2/19/2009 3:06:31 AM ET 2009-02-19T08:06:31

China's normally dry capital lay covered in a white blanket for a third day Thursday, with Beijing residents and tourists basking in an unusual, artificially produced snowfall.

The snow that began early Tuesday was a product of cloud-seeding, Chinese officials have claimed. It is a method used by the government to induce precipitation to end a three-month drought that has gripped at least 12 Chinese provinces.

Zhang Qiang, deputy director of the Beijing Weather Modification Command Center, said Wednesday the center had blasted chemicals into the clouds to increase the snow.

"More than 500 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide were seeded into clouds from 28 weather rocket-launch bases in the city," Zhang was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying.

China has used such techniques in the past, though there is little scientific evidence of its effectiveness. Most recently, the government reportedly used cloud-seeding to prevent rain from marring the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics.

Even Chinese scientists acknowledge they cannot say exactly what effect they are having by blasting clouds with silver iodide. Of course when it snows — or rains — they take credit.

According to Beijing's meteorological bureau, the snow will stop by nightfall.

Tourists take in 'spectacular' scenes
Beijing experiences cold winters but snow — if it occurs at all — is usually very light. This week's snowfall proved to be a draw for some of Beijing's most well-known tourist spots.

A spokesman for the Badaling section of the Great Wall, about an hour from Beijing, said that twice as many tourists as usual had come out to view the snow-covered site.

"Even though it wasn't the weekend, about 4,000 tourists still showed up yesterday to watch the snow ... the scene is spectacular," said the official, who gave only his surname Xie.

Xie said he expects more visitors over the next few days because snow on the Great Wall is "quite rare."

Tourist officials at the Forbidden City said there was no drop in the number of visitors.

"Tourists will come in any weather, no matter it snows or rains, people come anyway," said the director of administrative office at the Forbidden City, who gave only her surname Liu.

Though traffic was slower than normal, no roads were closed as the city mobilized more than 7,500 sanitation workers and 2,211 vehicles to remove ice and snow from the capital's streets.

However, Beijing's drivers are still getting used to maneuvering in the snow. A conference call for analysts at Baidu Inc. started more than 10 minutes late, said Jennifer Li, the chief financial officer.

"We had a very unusual snowfall in the city and many of the drivers are still learning how to drive on the streets, so a couple of the key participants were delayed."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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