February 2, 2023


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Parched UAE turns to science to squeeze extra rainfall from clouds

By Abir Ahmar

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – As a twin-turboprop plane takes off underneath the burning desert solar with dozens of salt canisters hooked up to its wings, United Arab Emirates meteorological official Abullah al-Hammadi scans climate maps on computer systems screens for cloud formations.

At 9,000 ft above sea degree, the airplane releases salt flares into probably the most promising white clouds, hoping to set off rainfall.

“Cloud seeding requires the existence of wet clouds, and this can be a drawback as it isn’t at all times the case,” mentioned Hamadi, head of rain enhancement operations within the UAE’s Nationwide Centre for Meteorology.

The UAE, positioned in one of many hottest and driest areas on earth, has been main the trouble to seed clouds and enhance precipitation, which stays at lower than 100 millimetres (3.9 inches) a 12 months on common.

The consequences of local weather change, mixed with a rising inhabitants and economic system diversifying into tourism and different areas have pushed up demand for water within the UAE, which has relied on costly desalination vegetation that make use of seawater.

Officers say they consider cloud seeding might help. Scientists in Abu Dhabi mix taking pictures hygroscopic, or water-attracting, salt flares with releasing salt nanoparticles, a more moderen know-how, into the clouds to stimulate and speed up the condensation course of and hopefully produce droplets large enough to then fall as rain.

“Cloud seeding will increase rainfall charges by roughly 10% to 30% per 12 months… Based on our calculations, cloud seeding operations value a lot lower than the desalination course of,” Hammadi mentioned.

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Different nations within the area, together with Saudi Arabia and Iran, have introduced related plans as they face historic droughts.

Edward Graham, a meteorologist on the College of the Highlands and Islands in Britain, mentioned the salt utilized in cloud seeding within the UAE doesn’t hurt the atmosphere.

“When it comes to carbon footprint, planes that fly up into the clouds are simply small planes, when in comparison with the billions of vehicles on the planet and the massive planes doing worldwide air journey on a regular basis, it’s only a drop within the ocean,” he added.

Pilots primarily based on the UAE’s al-Ain airport must be able to take off at a moments discover, flying over the reddish-yellow desert earlier than directing their plane into the clouds positioned on the meteorologists’ screens.

“Cloud seeding is taken into account the second hardest problem for pilots,” mentioned one flyer, Ahmed al-Jaberi. “When there’s a cloud, we strive to determine the way in which we have to go out and in of it and keep away from thunderstorms or hail.”


(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Enhancing by Alex Richardson)