Impacting the weather sounds like something from the future, but cloud seeding in the UAE has been in use since the 1990s to keep up with the increased demand for freshwater. If the recent rain and storms have you wondering how the process works, here’s everything you need to know.
WHAT IS CLOUD SEEDING?
Cloud seeding is a technique to enhance the clouds with condensation nuclei. This creates an ideal atmosphere, thereby improving rain yield. Cloud seeding is not the same as “creating” or “making” rain. The process engineers heavy clouds to expedite the condensation and enhance rainfall. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, 56 countries employ cloud-seeding technology to battle droughts and weather extremities.
CLOUD SEEDING IN THE UAE
Cloud seeding in the UAE is not a new phenomenon. The initiative has been operational for over two decades now.
According to the UN, about 14 per cent of the world’s population will face water scarcity by 2025. This water shortage is expected to be worse in arid countries like the UAE. This is because the region typically gets an estimated 120 millimetres of annual rainfall and sometimes even lesser. The UAE cloud seeding initiative is part of the government’s attempt to deal with the existing and future water needs of the country’s growing population.
The UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) was launched in 1990. Since then, the initiative has remained dedicated to employing time-evolving technologies and practices to create an additional water source for the country. A number of institutions, including NASA, have been involved in the project.
Of course, there are other ways to secure tangible water sources – desalination plants being the most viable ones for the UAE. However, when comparing the costs, cloud seeding in the UAE is about 60% less costly.
Cloud seeding in Dubai and across the UAE has been quite effective. In the year 2016, 177 flights were conducted. By 2019, almost 200 rainmaking missions were carried out in total, out of which 8 took place in October 2019, resulting in the collection of 6.7 million cubic metres of water. During 2022, 311 cloud-seeding missions took place, amounting close to 1,000 flying hours. These statistics demonstrate the significance and advantages of artificial rain in the UAE.
HOW IS ARTIFICIAL RAIN IN THE UAE MADE?
The UAE has always been a nation with a keen eye on the future. It was one of the first countries in the Middle East to adopt cloud seeding technology to increase its existing water sources. The country uses the latest available technologies paired with sophisticated radars to observe the atmosphere and related changes at all times. If you’re wondering how cloud seeding is done in the UAE, there are three different methods.
CLOUD SEEDING VIA AIR
Employing an aircraft to drop condensation nuclei is the most frequently used cloud seeding method in the UAE. The National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) targets the dense clouds moving over the Arabian Gulf to increase rainfall yield by at least 15%.
The condensation nuclei contain salts, mainly magnesium, potassium chloride and sodium chloride fitted into flares loaded on the aeroplane. These flares are released into the cumulus cloud formations, where they accelerate condensation, forming water droplets weighing enough to create rainfall.
Clouds have two masses of air – an upper draft and a lower draft. The flares are dropped into the upper draft that sucks them in as they burn the salt particles. The burnt salt particles attach to the moisture droplets already present in the clouds, resulting in heavier, bigger rain droplets because of condensation. The salt crystal flares then encourage the formation and release of cloud moisture, which then turns into precipitation.
It has been reported that the NCM use four planes and six pilots for cloud-seeding missions. Al Ain Airport is the base of these planes as it is located close to the mountains. Once cumulus cloud formations are found, the planes take off to start the cloud seeding process.
Scientists have also tested a new cloud seeding method in the UAE using drones. These machines zap clouds with electricity leading to droplets clumping together. Hence, larger droplets fall to the ground rather than evaporate midway. It is believed that the drone method will eventually replace the aircraft method.
CLOUD SEEDING FROM LAND
The second method of cloud seeding used in the UAE is the weather modification system. This system involves ground generators – currently placed in the mountainous terrains of Hafeet and Fujairah. These generators shoot salt flares into the clouds from the ground instead of dropping them from the plane for increased rain.
THE CLOUD SEEDING NANO-TECHNOLOGY
Given the overall cloud-seeding impact on the UAE, the country is always searching for new and efficient technologies to create rain. Lately, the NCM has been experimenting with a new cloud seeding method that involves nano-technology.
This cloud-seeding technology uses salt crystals enclosed in titanium dioxide nanoparticle veneers instead of flares. These crystals are then injected into the existing clouds to make rain particles denser and more likely to pour down as rainfall.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW EFFECTIVE IS CLOUD SEEDING?
According to the National Centre of Meteorology the chances of rain increase by 30 per cent in a clean atmosphere and by 15 per cent in a dusty atmosphere. However, this is not a definitive answer and research continues to answer this question.
Furthermore, as technology improves, it is expected that the effectiveness of cloud seeding will increase.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT DURING RAIN IN DUBAI?
Thanks to cloud seeding, rainfall is now a recurring phenomenon in Dubai and other parts of the UAE. Sometimes heavy rainfall can lead to slight inconveniences in everyday life. Here’s how to deal with the rain to keep yourself and those around you safe.
That’s all we have for you on cloud seeding in Dubai and the UAE. Artificial rain in the UAE has helped the country battle extreme temperatures and create favourable environmental conditions. Plus there is more water for crops, recharging of wells and increase in general supply of water. Another significant advantage is cheaper desalination.
The UAE’s farsightedness is not limited to creating alternative water sources for its people. The country is determined to excel in economic and social standards to become one of the best places to live on Earth. The same agenda is also visible in the UAE’s theme for the next year, 2020: Towards the Next 50.
For more interesting news and updates on the UAE, stay tuned to MyBayut.