Nanjing Night Net

Moscow plans snow offensive

MOSCOW: The city’s government, led by the long-reigning Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has indicated that clearing the capital’s streets of snow is too expensive. Instead, the city is considering seeding the clouds with liquid nitrogen or dry ice to keep heavy snow from falling inside its limits.Word of the proposal has sent a shudder through Moscow just as the first dark, snowy days have fallen on the capital. It also has piqued the surrounding region, which would receive the brunt of the displaced snowfall, and has raised concerns among ecologists.”I was very surprised, because [the mayor] never even asked us,” said Alexei Yablokov, who sits on the mayor’s ecological council. ”We never discussed it at all.”The city government says it has not reached a decision. But scientists at the Central Aerological Observatory said they were deep into negotiations with city authorities and expect the cloud-seeding plan to proceed.They already seed the clouds for political effect, clearing the skies over Moscow twice a year to ensure sunny celebrations of patriotic holidays.”Victory Day is the most sacred holiday for us,” said Bagrat Danilian, the deputy chief of cloud-seeding at the observatory. ”When veterans go out to celebrate in Moscow, we create good weather for them.”All it takes, he says, is sacks of cement. Drop the powder down into the clouds, and they vanish.Russian cloud-seeding is done in moderation, the scientists insist. ”You shouldn’t overstep the threshold over which the weather would change globally,” Mr Danilian said. ”We’re trying to look for that threshold in a very careful way.” Sometimes nature wins. And, in one instance last year, gravity.As the air force toiled to chase the clouds away for last year’s independence day celebrations, a clump of cement tumbled to earth instead of dissipating into the clouds. It crashed through the roof of a house on the city’s outskirts. Rather than accept the compensation offered by the military, the owner of the house said she would file suit for ”moral suffering”.It is unlikely Muscovites would agree to forgo snow altogether. During the long, dark months of winter, the flicker of clean flakes against the sky is one of the few recurrent graces, creating a vast playground for children and briefly coating the drab winter days in sparkling white. But Mr Luzhkov is prepared to choke off any particularly massive snowfalls, for an estimated saving in clean-up costs of $US13 million ($14.6 million).”In the movies, the snow looks very beautiful,” one of Mr Danilian’s colleagues said. ”But this snow costs a pretty penny to Moscow authorities.”Los Angeles Times
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