Can rockets bring rain to drought-stricken areas?

Posted at 9:10 AM, Apr 27, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-27 09:10:29-04

By Jennifer Delgado, CNN

TONGLIAO CITY, China (CNN) - Spring showers -- a welcome and almost never seen sight in China's Inner Mongolia region.

Chinese officials said this rain is the first to fall on Tongliao City in 15 years. They credited cloud seeding for the downpour.

Proving those claims, however, is nearly impossible.

Local officials said they launched 258 rockets and used airplanes to spray dry ice and liquid nitrogen in the atmosphere.

China spends millions of dollars every year on the world's largest cloud seeding program. The country uses it frequently to mitigate drought and used it to clear the skies of dust and pollution before the Beijing Olympics.

More than 130 countries around the world have similar weather modification programs, but China makes the bigest claims about its capabilities.

There is evidence that cloud-seeding can cause some increase in rain if the right cloud under the right circumstances are chose, but just how broadly it can be applied remains a matter for debate.