Cloud Seeding in the UAE: The Latest Technology to Meet the Country's Growing Water Needs
The UAE has been experimenting with the Cloud Seeding for over a decade. Here's how much it costs and why is it necessary.
The UAE has been experiencing rainy weather conditions since Thursday night, with dark clouds, thunder, lightning, strong winds and light to heavy rain showers in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ajman. These are the result of the country’s cloud seeding efforts which help create artificial rain.
According to a report in the Gulf News, a National Center of Meteorology (NCM) official said the UAE sent five cloud seeding flights on Thursday, 9th January, around 5-6 pm. He said this was done as clouds containing rain particles were already moving in this direction and cloud seeding efforts would continue so the weathermen were continuously on standby.
The History of Cloud Seeding:
Cloud seeding was discovered in 1946 by a chemist working with General Electric, who caused snow to fall when he dropped dry ice into a cloud. The current cloud seeding process includes planes with special flares, which have salt crystals and are fired into warm clouds in order to increase the chances of receiving rainfall.
When did the UAE start experimenting with Cloud Seeding?
The UAE has been conducting cloud seeding operations since over a decade in order to enhance rainfall in the country and bring down temperatures. This is helping to meet the water requirements of the UAE's growing population. The process involves sending flights to shoot salt flares into clouds. This improves the chances of receiving rainfall by 15 to 20 per cent. Weather authorities in the UAE have been creating artificial rain by using cloud seeding technology since 2010.
The UAE is one of the first countries in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf to use cloud seeding technology to increase rainfall. It has utilised the latest technologies, comprising a sophisticated weather radar, to keep track of the country’s atmosphere 24/7. According to the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), seeding operations have resulted in a 30 to 35 per cent increase in rainfall in clean skies, and around 15 per cent in dusty conditions. In 2017, more than 200 cloud seeding operations were carried out successfully.
Why is it Necessary and How Much is Being Spent on it:
The initial project, which cost $11 million, has been successful in bringing rain to the deserts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Prior to this, the UAE only received about 100 mm of rainfall per year, mostly between December and March, i.e. the winter season. The country recently also tested nano-tech cloud seeding in order to further boost rainfall.
Prior to this, in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Presidential Affairs launched UAE Rain Enhancement Research Programme. The programme gives $5 million each to successful applicants, from around the world, for a three-year period, to conduct research on rain enhancement. Under this programme, eight cloud seeding operations were conducted in October 2019, collecting 6.7 million cubic metres of water.
How Does It Work:
UAE's NCM is now trying out a new nano-technology to make the cloud seeding process more effective. This technology injects salt crystals, with a titanium dioxide nanoparticle coating, into convective clouds, which might help make rain particles denser, increasing the likelihood of rain falling from the clouds.
Why is Cloud Seeding Important Now:
According to Gulf News, Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director of the NCM & the President of the Regional Association II in the Asia Region, said, "Thanks to the constant support of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science continues to bolster its global reputation as a leader in its field. I am delighted that the highly creative work undertaken by Professor Zou's team has progressed to the extent that the groundbreaking materials developed are ready for field testing and potential large-scale production. This result demonstrates how NCM through the Program is succeeding in attracting significant participation from leading international scientific experts and helping to boost water security for those at risk around the world."
Alya Al Mazroui, Director of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement, said, "The success of Professor Zou's team's innovative project demonstrates that the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science is already bearing fruit in terms of generating new knowledge with real-world applications. We are continuing to position the UAEREP as a focal point for productive scientific and technological exchange between some of the world's leading experts in this field."