A meteorological official said Wednesday that the persistent drought has almost ended in Beijing as snow, assisted by artificial means, continues to fall in the city.
A girl plays in a snow-covered parking lot in Shijingshan district, Beijing, February 17, 2009. Snow flakes quietly fell in Beijing's downtown areas early Tuesday morning, driving the temperature below zero. [Xinhua]
Zhang Qiang, deputy director of the Beijing Weather Modification Command Center, said the center had used artificial means since Tuesday to increase the snow in order to ease the drought.
"More than 500 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide were seeded into clouds from 28 weather rocket-launch bases in the city," Zhang said.
"It [relief from drought] is also as a result of a rainfall last week, which dampened the dry soil greatly," said Guo Wenli, head of the Climate Center with the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau.
The Chinese capital had not seen precipitation for 110 days before the rainfall on Feb. 12.
Beijing welcomed a snowfall Tuesday, the first since last winter. It continued to snow Wednesday morning.
"The snowy weather has further brought moisture to the soil. The drought has almost ended," Guo said.
The meteorological bureau said the Fenghuangling Mountain to the northwest of the city received the biggest precipitation of 6 mm from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday. The average precipitation from the snowfall in the downtown area was 1 mm.
The bureau forecast that snow will fall again tonight.
Three sections of highways leading to northeastern suburbs of the city were closed on Wednesday. But traffic on major highways in downtown Beijing, including the airport expressway, remained smooth, according to the city's transport bureau.
More than 6,000 policemen were on the roads to monitor traffic on Wednesday, as transport authorities launched a third-degree alarm to cope with the traffic in snowy weather.
Meteorological bureau chief Guo Hu said the snow on Wednesday coincided with "Rain Water," one of the 24 solar divisions on the ancient Chinese lunar-solar calendar when it normally rains.
He said Beijing's first snow normally fell in mid-December. However, the capital had been enduring the longest drought in 38 years, according to the bureau's records. The city had not seen rain or snow since Oct. 24.