As weather modifying becomes increasingly fashionable, Moscow is joining Beijing in trying to tamper with snowfalls.

Two weeks after Beijing successfully tested the technique of causing tonnes of snow to fall on the drought-hit city by bombarding clouds with silver iodine, Moscow authorities are embarking on a similar experiment to achieve the opposite result — keep snow clouds away from the city to reduce the cost of cleaning streets in winter.

The Moscow Mayor’s office has hired the Air Force to blast clouds from the sky between November 15 and March 15. The plan would cost the budget about $6 million, but city economists said the use of the Air Force is three times cheaper than conventional snow removal methods, and would allow authorities to save $10 million they spend every winter digging the Russian capital from under about eight feet of snow.

During heavy snowfalls municipal services haul away from Moscow streets about 3,00,000 cubic metres of snow a day.

Military aircraft will fly out and spray clouds with dry ice, cement particles or silver iodine to create crystallisation and force precipitation to fall before it reaches Moscow. The same technique is already used in Moscow in summer to keep the skies blue during major holidays.

However, environmentalists are objecting to the plan. They said trees and plants in Moscow parks could freeze out for lack of sufficient snow cover. Snowfalls also help clean the air in the city with a population of over 10 million.

However, the first snow blizzard that hit Moscow last Friday increased support for the cloud seeding plan. Traffic jams caused by the snowfall stretched for a total of almost 1,000 km of Moscow streets.

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