Friday, August 24, 2007

Blue sky paranoia

The last three days have been strangely nice in Beijing. Fiercely hot, but..... remarkably unhumid for the time of year..... blue skies (hazy, but you can see the sky - something often impossible for days or weeks on end in this most polluted of cities).... refreshing breezes. Nice.

It is uncanny. This is not August weather at all. Usually August is cripplingly humid, and as often as not overcast and smoggy as well. I almost begin to wonder if the traditional clearing of the weather (which always seems to happen, regular as clockwork, in the first week of September, ushering in the sunniest, pleasantest month of the year) has somehow turned up a whole fortnight or so early.

Of course, there are the conspiracy theories too. Good weather usually materialises whenever the IOC is in town - factories upwind for a a hundred miles or more are shut down, most government cars (nearly half of total traffic here in the capital) are pulled off the roads. It's remarkable how effective it is. I've even heard it suggested recently that the artillery batteries ranged around the western side of the city (upwind) which regularly bombard the clouds with silver iodide to ensure that we get some rain during the baking summers (and doubtless ensuring also that Tianjin and other points east of here get none at all) have changed their usual policy, and are now aiming to pop the clouds further away from the city...... to wash pollution out of the sky (and make sure that we don't have any showers to spoil our sunny summer days).

Would that really work?? I'm sceptical.

And would it rid us of the usual wretched humidity as well? Well, if it can, I'm all for it. Even though my more prudent and Gaia-concerned self might fret about the dire knock-on effects of tampering with the weather in this way.

Even if the Olympic bigwigs aren't around at the moment, it is entirely plausible that the Beijing authorities are having a dry run for next year's Olympic month - trying out their full armoury of climate- and environment-enhancing techniques to see if they really can render our city tolerable during the Games next year. Long-time residents like myself are mostly not optimistic - Beijing is just horrible in August! But this is a country where they can move mountains (usually for the most futile of reasons) when they put their minds to it.

There was an experiment earlier in the week to cut down the number of cars on the roads; but, according to this item picked up on Danwei, it was a somewhat limited success in reducing the air pollution.


moonrat said...

this is something i panic about on a day-to-day basis. i know new york is no beijing, but there are some situational similarities, and our weather has been SO weird the last three years (i know it sounds rather ludicrous, but it seems like the four seasons of my recent childhood are no more). the last week here was freakishly cold--late October in August.

i've come to understand that the days before my little island sinks into the sea are limited. i'm making contingency plans for the future (and for the distant future, the most relevant ones seem to be "don't procreate so your children don't blister to death in a ghastly toxic inferno).

Froog said...

Calm down, Cassandra, it can't be that bad.

Well, me, I see plagues and a descent into anarchy long before climate-change or pollution does for us.

This is what we get for reading too much 'speculative fiction' - more colourful anxieties.