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Business News/ Science / Dubai rains: All you need to know about cloud seeding that may have caused flooding in UAE

Dubai rains: All you need to know about cloud seeding that may have caused flooding in UAE

The rain was called ‘a historic weather event’ that surpassed 'anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949,' by the state-run WAM news agency.

Water floods Global village parking after a rainstorm, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (REUTERS)Premium
Water floods Global village parking after a rainstorm, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (REUTERS)

The arid nation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) received the "heaviest rain ever" on Tuesday, leading to flooding in Dubai.

The rain was called “a historic weather event" by the state-run WAM news agency, surpassing "anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman also received rainfall on Tuesday.

The widespread rainwitnessed across the UAE is believed to have been caused by “cloud seeding", among other factors. 

Emirates' National Center for Meteorology (NCM) reportedly conducted six or seven cloud-seeding flights before the rains that caused havoc in Dubai, according to meteorologists at NCM quoted in several media reports. 

Also read: Know what caused the heavy rainfall - Cloud seeding or climate change? Here's what experts say

What is cloud seeding?

Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification where substances like silver iodide or dry ice are dispersed into clouds to encourage precipitation, such as rain or snow. 

In countries like the UAE, where temperatures are high and annual rainfall is minimal, cloud seeding is employed to alleviate pressure on limited groundwater sources by enhancing precipitation.

How does cloud seeding work?

Cloud seeding is a technique where “seeding agents" such as silver iodide or salt are introduced into clouds to stimulate condensation and trigger rainfall.

Weather forecasters monitor atmospheric conditions and identify suitable clouds for seeding based on precipitation patterns. This technique can increase rainfall by up to 30-35 per cent in clear conditions and 10-15 per cent in more humid conditions.

What is UAE's cloud seeding programme?

The UAE initiated its cloud seeding program in the late 1990s, making it one of the first Middle Eastern countries to use this technique. Collaborative research with institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and NASA has bolstered their efforts.

The UAE established the “UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science" (UAEREP) in 2015 to address water security challenges.

According to the UAEREP, the Emirates' National Centre of Meteorology (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.

It has also created climate databases and assisted in the development of high precision Numerical Weather Predictions and simulation software in the UAE.

The UAEREP website further informed that currently, 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.

Also read: Why cloud seeding is easy to propose but hard to implement

What is the environmental impact of cloud seeding?

Cloud seeding alters the precipitation patterns of a region/locality. This may negatively impact neighbouring ecosystems, who were to receive rain for the seeded clouds originally.

Introducing seeding agents might impact the natural hydrological cycle as it may change the natural soil moisture levels, groundwater recharge, and river flows.

Some experts worry about the potential for silver toxicity if cloud seeding becomes widespread. Silver iodide is a common seeding agent. Silver toxicity could pose risks to aquatic life and soil health.

Therefore, even with the promise cloud seeding holds, responsible stewardship and thorough evaluation of its environmental impacts are crucial. 

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Published: 17 Apr 2024, 05:11 PM IST
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