Beijing snowfall hailed as ‘auspicious’ ... but it’s man-made

Environment minister sees snowfall as an auspicious sign, but forecaster says they decided to intervene to ease the drought

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 11:05pm

Beijing’s downtown area saw its first snow of the winter on Saturday morning, after a 145-day dry spell in the capital.

For one government minister it was an auspicious sign as it coincided with lawmakers unanimously voting in favour of Xi Jinping’s second term as president. But much like proceedings in the legislature, the snow was carefully choreographed – weather officials said they had intervened to help ease the drought. 

President Xi Jinping is China’s first leader to swear an oath to the constitution

Most parts of the city received an average of up to 2 millimetres of sleet and light snow on Saturday morning, according to the weather bureau. The snowfall got heavier in the early afternoon but had stopped by the evening.

It could be the first and last day of snow seen in Beijing this winter. The city’s weather bureau said March 17 was usually the end of the season in terms of snowfall, based on the average of previous years.  

The capital is in the grip of a drought, with no “effective precipitation” – enough for it to soak into the ground – recorded in the downtown areas since October 23, although the city’s rural outskirts have seen snow in recent months.

Environment Minister Li Ganjie thought the light dusting of snow boded well.

“Today is a good day – we welcome the rain after a long drought. Timely snowfall brings with it the promise of a good harvest year, and today, snow is falling in Beijing,” Li told reporters on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress on Saturday. 

“This morning [Xi] was unanimously elected as the country’s president and chairman of the Central Military Commission. We firmly believe that with him as our leader, our goals and dreams will be realised.”

But for one forecaster working at the city’s meteorology bureau, Saturday was all about the snow – she was unaware that Xi had been re-elected because she was “too busy monitoring the weather all day”.

Xi Jinping gets second term, with ally Wang Qishan as vice-president

She said the bureau had been using snow-making machines in mountainous areas surrounding the city to “boost humidity and try to bring on some snowfall”.

Those machines could be seen in action in a video posted on the bureau’s official Weibo page on Saturday. A stream of white snow is seen spewing from a machine in a scenic part of northern Changping district, with a caption reading: “This morning, the Changping Meteorological Service has produced additional artificial snow on Daheishan.” 

The forecaster said the bureau had earlier predicted snowfall around this time, and decided to intervene because the weather conditions – such as cloud and humidity levels and temperature – were right for bringing on snow.

“Of course, this is not completely man-made, because that would be impossible,” she said. “But Beijing has been very dry, so we needed to grab the chance to maximise the humidity level.”

The snow was greeted with excitement in the capital, with many Weibo users posting their photos and videos. “Beijing is snowing, the whole city is celebrating,” wrote one local.

Another said: “Finally there is snow, now the Beijing Meteorological Service staff won’t lose their jobs.”