Zheng Guoguang is a commander-in-chief without a uniform. On
alert are 53,000 high-caliber "troops" with their aim fixed on
clouds and winds, and a regiment armed with 7,000 artilleries and
5,000 rocket launchers.
On his command, they fire at least 1 million shells and chemical
pellets a year - not to storm enemy lines but to stop hailstorms or
Zheng, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, is
charged with a battle plan for 2008: To serve the Olympic Games, launch a campaign to inform
every citizen of deleterious weather and prepare the nation for
"To put it succinctly, we will provide the best ever service for
the Olympics," Zheng told China Daily yesterday. "We'll
also deliver weather messages to residents real fast, and draft
resources to counter climate change."
The agency started Olympic preparations in 2001 - the year the
capital won the right to host the Games - with the country's top
weathermen working side by side with international specialists.
"The best human resources and state-of-the-art equipment and
expertise are all here for the Games," he said. "We'll offer
weather forecasts for specific Games venues at specific times and
even for specific events."
Weathermen are expected to know a week in advance if there is a
threat of rain on the opening day of the Beijing Games, and will
then take measures to keep it away.
In addition to installing more weather monitoring stations in
Beijing and its vicinity, the meteorological authorities have
launched drills to hone technical skills, he said.
For example, 34 weathermen from the agency spent 37 days in
April and May last year at several camps 5,200-7,028 meters above
sea level on Mount Qomolangma - known in the West as Mount Everest
- to provide weather updates, which helped take the Olympic torch
to the world's highest peak in a rehearsal.
During a torch relay drill in July-August, forecasters provided
detailed reports to a city every 12 hours for four days before the
flame reached, and scored an accuracy rate of up to 84 percent for
precipitation in a timeframe of 12-120 hours, according to figures
from the agency.
Using rockets and aircraft, the agency dispersed clouds before
they reached Shanghai on October 2, the opening of the Special
Olympic Games in the city.
"It is unrealistic to speculate now on weather conditions for
the Beijing Games and what moves we'll take then," Zheng said. "We
have the confidence and are ready."
With 10 percent of the country's satellite fleet dedicated to
monitoring weather and 122 sophisticated Doppler radars installed
on the mainland - an advanced weather radar network second only to
the US - China is scrambling to mitigate the impact of climatic
calamities which killed 2,111 people last year.
"We realize that accurate forecasting is important, but more
important is to get the information through to the public and alert
them of countermeasures," Zheng said.
"That's why in addition to conventional media, we'll put
cellphone and satellite broadcasting systems in place to make
weather alerts accessible to every resident in need."
In 2007, the agency dispatched at least 1.2 billion text
messages on weather alerts to mobile phone users including 620,000
emergency workers in government departments.
But as it usually takes an hour to deliver 1 million short
messages, a storm or typhoon may have already stricken many people
before they were informed.
"The cellphone broadcast is a one-to-many, geographically
focused messaging service for nationwide or citywide alerts," Zheng
said. "Our recent tests in Shenzhen showed it was much more
For those living in remote mountainous regions or without mobile
phone service, the satellite broadcasting system, which uses
village loudspeakers and radio receivers as its terminals, will
come to their aid.
"Behind the weather alert regime is a concept that nobody shall
be left behind in case of natural disasters, and that a tiny fault
in weather forecasts or a single delay in information delivery
could cause huge losses to life and property," Zheng added.
China has set up a disaster relief mechanism that mobilizes the
resources of all governmental departments and stresses the
participation of all walks of society, with the meteorological
agencies at the core.
"It is not rare for a province to evacuate half a million or
even a million residents in the face of an impending typhoon," said
Zheng. "Each and every time, government officials or police visit
each house to ensure they've moved; and clean water, food and
shelter are provided at the government's cost."
In Zhejiang alone last September, 1.79 million people were
evacuated before Typhoon Wipha struck, the largest mass evacuation
in the history of the East China province.
Wipha and seven other typhoons swept across China last year,
claiming 69 lives, a historic low casualty figure thanks to
effective preparations and accurate forecasts, according to
He said the agency will step up research on the impact of
climate change and provide informed decisions for judging and
coping with the vulnerabilities in key infrastructure projects,
agriculture, water and energy resources, eco-systems and human
Commenting on the Bali roadmap, which was hammered out during
climate change negotiations in Indonesia last month, Zheng said it
is important that developed countries offer technical and financial
support to developing countries to tackle greenhouse gas
(China Daily January 2, 2008)