The countries are testing a technology for possible military application, say Chinese scientists involved in the project. Militaries have been in a race to control the ionosphere, which allows radio signals to bounce long distances for communication, for decades.
China is building the foundations of what will become the largest artificial rain experiment in history, in an attempt to induce extra rainfall over the Tibetan Plateau. The project will see tens of thousands of fuel-burning chambers installed across the Tibetan mountains, with a view to boosting rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres annually. The plan is to bring extra rain to a massive area spanning some 1.6 million square kilometres.
"Once the Tianhe Project is completed, it will be possible to transfer water in the air via an ‘air corridor.' [The corridor] will be formed as part of the South-to-North Water Diversion project," said Wang Guangqian, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and president of Qinghai University.The atmospheric boundary layer and the troposphere form a passage through which water vapor can be transported in a stable and orderly way. The passage can be regarded as "tianhe" (literally, a river in the sky).
Work to build facility was 13 years in the making, but some researchers have expressed concern about exposure to extremely low frequency waves. Project WEM will be able to communicate with submarines under the water, reducing need for them to surface.