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UAE’s Artificial Rain Linked to Dubai Weather Chaos

April 17, 2024

New Delhi: Dubai, known for its arid climate and blistering temperatures, was battered by torrential rain on Tuesday, triggering widespread flooding throughout the desert nation. The unforeseen downpour not only halted the bustling city’s usual pace but also sparked worries about the escalating influence of climate change on extreme weather phenomena in the area.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), annual rainfall averages less than 200 millimetres. With temperatures soaring to as high as 50 degrees Celsius during the summer, the UAE’s water resources are under immense pressure, compounded by its heavy reliance on groundwater sources.

To combat this pressing issue, the UAE pioneered innovative solutions, one of which is generating artificial rain through cloud seeding, a form of weather modification aimed at enhancing precipitation. But, how does it work? 

Understanding Cloud Seeding

Cloud seeding is a technique that involves introducing “seeding agents” into clouds to stimulate the condensation process and trigger rainfall. The process begins with weather forecasters at the NCM monitoring atmospheric conditions and identifying suitable clouds for seeding based on precipitation patterns.

The UAE first tested cloud seeding in 1982. By the early 2000s, the Gulf nation’s artificial rain program had been bolstered by collaborative scientific and technical research with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado, USA, Witwatersrand University in South Africa, and NASA. 

The UAE’s Rain Enhancement Program (UAEREP), managed by the Emirates’ National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), spearheads the program.

The scientists behind this program focused on analysing the physical and chemical characteristics of the UAE’s atmosphere, particularly aerosols and pollutants, and their influence on cloud formation. The aim was to identify an effective agent to stimulate cloud growth and ultimately augment rainfall.

Once conducive clouds are identified, specialised aircraft equipped with hygroscopic flares take to the skies. These flares, mounted on the aircraft’s wings, contain salt material components. Upon reaching the target clouds, the flares are deployed, releasing the seeding agent into the cloud.

The salt particles serve as nuclei around which water droplets condense, eventually growing heavy enough to fall as precipitation in the form of rain.

“The NCM has established a national network of 86 automatic weather stations (AWOS) for weather monitoring, six weather radars covering the entire UAE, and one upper air station. The Centre has also created climate databases and assisted in the development of high precision Numerical Weather Predictions and simulation software in the UAE,” the UAEREP’s description of the process reads. 

“At present, the NCM operates four Beechcraft King Air C90 aircraft from Al Ain Airport equipped with the latest technologies and devices employed for cloud seeding and atmospheric research.” 

Environmental Concerns

Despite the potential benefits of cloud seeding, concerns have been raised about its environmental impact and the safety of the seeding agents used. In response, the NCM has taken measures to ensure the safety and sustainability of its operations.

Unlike some other countries’ cloud seeding programs that utilise silver iodide, a crystal-like material that has raised environmental concerns, the UAE’s program refrains from using harmful chemicals. Instead, it employs natural salts as seeding agents.

The NCM has developed its own seeding agent known as nano material, consisting of fine salt coated with titanium oxide. This material is currently undergoing trials and experimentation to assess its effectiveness in enhancing precipitation

There have been other concerns over “tinkering” with nature. With the region experiencing exceptional weather conditions like storms and heavy rainfall, causing unprecedented floods, some have warned against meddling with the natural order of things, claiming that the floods are nature’s way of “pushing back”. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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