Dubai Grinds to Standstill as Cloud Seeding Worsens Flooding

Torrential rains across the United Arab Emirates prompted flight cancellations, forced schools to shut and brought traffic to a standstill.

Bloomberg
Updated17 Apr 2024
Dubai Grinds to Standstill as Cloud Seeding Worsens Flooding
Dubai Grinds to Standstill as Cloud Seeding Worsens Flooding

(Bloomberg) -- Torrential rains across the United Arab Emirates prompted flight cancellations, forced schools to shut and brought traffic to a standstill.

The heavy rains that caused widespread flooding across the desert nation stemmed partly from cloud seeding. The UAE started cloud seeding operations in 2002 to address water security issues, even though the lack of drainage in many areas can trigger flooding.

The Gulf state’s National Center of Meteorology dispatched seeding planes from Al Ain airport on Monday and Tuesday to take advantage of convective cloud formations, according to Ahmed Habib, a specialist meteorologist. That technique involves implanting chemicals and tiny particles — often natural salts such as potassium chloride — into the atmosphere to coax more rain from clouds.

With global warming threatening a surge in heat-related deaths in the UAE, Dubai’s media office dubbed the downpours “rains of goodness,” despite flooded houses and overflowing swimming pools.

The latest storms followed heavy rains earlier this year, according to Habib at NCM. The seeding planes have flown seven missions over the past two days, he added.

“For any cloud that’s suitable over the UAE you make the operation,” he said.

The rain forced Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, to suspend operations for 25 minutes.

“Operations continue to be significantly disrupted at Dubai International due to heavy rain and flooding,” a spokesperson for the airport told Bloomberg. More than 40 flights were canceled and inbound services were temporarily diverted until weather conditions improve.

The UAE government issued warnings ahead of the heavy rains, asking people to stay at home and only leave “in cases of extreme necessity.” It later extended remote working until Wednesday for all federal employees.

People took to social media to share updates on the aftermath of the weather. Some videos showed cars being swept off roads, while another showed the ceiling of a shop collapsing as water inundated one of Dubai’s most popular malls. The emirate’s metro was disrupted.

Residents had to bail out apartments and underground car parks were flooded. Some buildings also suffered power outages. 

Roads in Abu Dhabi were also flooded.

In neighboring Oman, at least 18 people have died in recent days as the heavy rains caused flooding, AP reported, citing a statement from the country’s National Committee for Emergency Management.

--With assistance from Leen Al-Rashdan.

(Updates with Oman death toll in final paragraph)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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