South Korea and China using ‘Artificial Rain’ to wash away air pollution

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(DNA) – Air pollution has become a major problem no matter where you live, and it can get particularly bad in Seoul, the capital of South Korea – and so the government authorities are taking drastic action to try and deal with the smog that settles over the city.The latest plan from President Moon Jae-in is to create artificial rain showers to effectively wash the air pollution out of the sky. It’s a strategy we have seen before, but there is still no solid evidence that it actually works.The idea is called cloud seeding: specific chemicals are released into the air, usually by planes, with the intention of encouraging water droplets to form. The rain that is created then attracts and pulls polluting aerosol particles out of the sky as it falls.That is the theory, anyway. Previous experiments have been inconclusive as to whether cloud seeding actually works, and South Korea itself made a failed attempt to force air-clearing showers back in January.So far the technique has been used to try and ensure good weather for the Beijing Olympics and to solve water shortages, but specific types of clouds have to be present to begin with in order to give precipitation an artificial boost.Aside from cloud seeding, there is also an ongoing debate about the long-term effectiveness of using water to clear away pollution. Rain can clear the air of polluting particles, but to what extent and how effective it can be is something scientists are still investigating.Nevertheless, South Korea is going to give it another go. The project is being undertaken in partnership with China, as a lot of the fine dust particles clogging up the atmosphere are originating from the neighbouring country.Apparently the artificial rain showers will be generated above the Yellow Sea, to the west of the Korean Peninsula.VIt is been a particularly bad week for air pollution in the region. The Associated Press reports that fine dust concentration levels were 136 micrograms per cubic metre in Seoul on Wednesday – with 75 micrograms per cubic metre considered “very bad” by the National Institute of Environmental Research in South KoreaVThailand used artificial rain in January to deal with its own air pollution issues. The so-called solution did not appear to work effectively as a week later schools were shut down due to poor air quality. The process involved seeding the atmosphere with particles to promote the formation of clouds. It should help disperse pollution when the clouds rain out, but the efficacy of the process remains unclear.A study showed that Thailand’s air pollution is cutting lives by more than two years. In India, where smog caused people to fatally crash their cars in 2017, air pollution imposes $35 billion in economic losses.That’s in relation to ultrafine particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, or PM 2.5.Whereas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends keeping PM 2.5 levels below 25 micrograms… so you can analyse the severity of the problem.The governments are taking steps to close down older coal-burning power plants, and to make more money available for air purifiers in schools.Whatever the effectiveness or otherwise of using artificial rain to clear away pollution, what is clear is that an action needs to be taken, and fast. According to WHO statistics released last year, 93 percent of kids worldwide under 15 years of age are breathing polluted air.Ultimately, combating air pollution in the long term – and all the damage to our health and the natural world that goes with it – is going to involve changes in the way we live and produce our energy.