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The BBC's Andrew Harding
"The pellets are supposed to hit the cloud"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 June, 2000, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Cloud-busting, anyone?

Could rain delays at Wimbledon be a thing of the past?
By Andrew Harding in Moscow

With the Wimbledon tennis tournament now underway in London, tennis stars and their fans will as ever be worrying about the weather during this major sporting event.

However, it seems there could be a way to avoid the disruptions.

Down the hatch
Down the hatch

The Russians claim they can provide sunshine for everyone by using Soviet-era "weather changing" technology.

High above Moscow, a lone aircraft embarks on a daring mission: to search and destroy.

The enemy is white, fluffy and wet. The men are Russia's cloud- busters. The target is spotted approaching Moscow.

On target

Putin: Fun in the sun
Putin: Fun in the sun

The crew quickly prepare their ammunition in a fridge full of dry ice.

Firing manually, they take aim through a hole in the floor and simply tip the ice out.

The pellets are supposed to hit the cloud, cool it, and force it to start raining.

Amazingly, it works. The Kremlin has been using the technique for decades to destroy big rain clouds before they get near Red Square.

The planes were out last month to make sure the sun was shining for President Putin's first parade.

Playing God

Weatherman Alexander Belayev: It's easy
Weatherman Alexander Belayev: It's easy

Television weatherman Alexander Belayev spends a large part of his working life checking the instruments at a meteorological station in Moscow.

Forecasting is fine, he says, but it is more fun playing god.

"It's easy," he says.

"Take Wimbledon. Our scientists could guarantee sunshine for a whole fortnight there."

"Besides, your English weather isn't as extreme as ours - it's easier to control."

The cloud-busters keep their equipment in a shed when the sun is shining.

Magic potion: Tins of liquid nitrogen
Magic potion: Tins of liquid nitrogen

A few tins of liquid nitrogen is enough to keep Wimbledon dry for a whole day.

The same substance did the trick for Presidnt Putin's parade, but for really big clouds the team uses fireworks with bits of silver in them or even huge bags of cement.

Splashing out

How much does all of this cost?

The price? A bargain at $250,000
Bazev: The price? A bargain at $250,000

"It depends what planes we use," says flight manager Teymuraz Bazev.

"But I'd say it would cost about five million roubles - or just over $250,000."

"It wouldn't be that easy. But we could do it."

No one from Britain has been in touch yet. However, the team has already zapped clouds in Iran, Syria and Portugal.

So if you feel like splashing out on a little extra sunshine, you just need to call the cloud-busters.

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See also:

22 Feb 00 | Washington 2000
Cities make their own weather
10 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Air pollution stops rain
17 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Winters really are getting wetter
09 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Water wars and peace
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