Dubai has a hot desert climate, and those summer days can be as hot as Hades! Temperatures often peak at around 113°F, and there is usually no rainfall in the summer months. Dubai receives about 4 inches of rain annually, which is insufficient to sustain the emirate. Scientists have taken a DIY approach by creating their own artificial rain. But exactly how does Dubai make it rain?
The Emirati Weather Center uses drones to shock the clouds into producing rain. They target specific clouds and use electrical discharges to trigger rainfall. Concentrated lasers produce electrical discharges, forcing water droplets to pool in the air. This causes the much-needed rain to fall.
Early artificial rain technology began in the 1940s. Several countries, including the UAE, have spent millions of dollars on rain enhancement science to artificially boost the rainfall in drought-stricken areas. The water table is dropping radically, and these artificial rainstorms bring much-needed relief to Dubai’s dry, hot desert.
How Dubai Makes It Rain
Scientists call rainmaking technology cloud seeding. Cloud seeding happens in different ways, but Dubai’s National Center of Meteorology now also uses drones to manipulate rainfall.
Cloud seeding is not a new initiative in the UAE. The country has used cloud seeding for more than two decades to deal with the growing need for water. With Dubai’s minimal rainfall, the high temperatures, and global warming, it faces water shortages that worsen by the day.
Dubai uses the latest technology and advanced radar systems to monitor any changes in the atmosphere. They use three methods of cloud seeding.
Cloud Seeding Via Air In Dubai
The National Center of Meteorology (NCM) focuses its cloud seeding on the thick clouds passing over the Arabian Gulf. One of the most often used methods is to use aircraft to release the condensation nuclei.
The aircraft releases flares containing salts like magnesium, sodium chloride, and potassium chloride into the thick cumulus clouds. The salts speed up condensation, forming large enough water droplets to create rainfall.
Clouds consist of two air masses – the upper and lower drafts. The airplanes release the flares into the upper draft, which sucks them in while they burn up the salts. The burnt salt particles stick to the tiny droplets already in the clouds, making them heavy enough to turn condensation into rainfall.
These days the NCM also uses drones that shoot electricity into the clouds. This causes the water droplets to stick together, making larger raindrops that fall to the ground instead of evaporating before they hit the ground. This method is probably going to replace cloud seeding via aircraft.
Cloud Seeding From The Ground
Another method of cloud seeding involves generators on the ground firing salt flares into the clouds to achieve the same goal as the other methods: cause the droplets of water to stick together to maximize rainfall. These generators currently operate from the mountainous regions of Hafeet and Fujairah.
Nano-Technology In Cloud Seeding
Given the important effects of cloud seeding on the country, it is always looking for new and cutting-edge technology to improve the artificial rainmaking process. The NCM is now experimenting with a different cloud seeding method that involves nano-technology.
This way of cloud seeding uses salt crystals encased in titanium dioxide nanoparticle coatings in place of flares. They inject these crystals into the clouds to enlarge the rain particles and improve the chances of heavier rainfall.
How Long After Cloud Seeding Does It Rain?
Depending on the cloud seeding method, it can take up to thirty minutes before the treated clouds start pouring out their blessings. Sometimes it happens almost immediately.
Injecting it directly from the top of the cloud produces a faster rain response but requires the plane to fly inside the cloud and fly at higher altitudes.
Seeding the clouds from below is an easier task but relies on the updraft to transport the seeding agent to where it will create the desired effects. This method will take longer to bring the rain.
The Effectiveness Of Cloud Seeding In Dubai
Cloud seeding in Dubai and other parts of the UAE has been quite successful. In 2019 the country carried out 200 cloud seeding missions, allowing it to collect 6.7 million cubic meters of water. Between January and June of 2021, the number of missions increased to 219. Because of successful cloud seeding, Dubai now experiences regular rainfall.
Environmental Impact Of Cloud Seeding In Dubai
Although cloud seeding produces more rain in Dubai, it can also cause some detrimental effects on the environment.
Cloud Seeding Can Cause Flooding
Dubai’s infrastructure is not equipped to deal with heavy rains or flooding. The UAE conducted a cloud seeding experiment in October 2019 that caused heavy rainfall and floods in January 2020. They needed pumps to get rid of the excess water because the drainage systems could not cope with it all.
Rain Enhancement Can Increase Air Pollution
Cloud seeding involves shooting silver iodine crystals and salts into the atmosphere, increasing the concentration of micro-pollutants. This heightens the risk of respiratory diseases. In 2017 research showed an increase in micro-pollutants correlated with cloud seeding months.
Cloud Seeding Could Cause Hostility Between Countries
Although rain produced by cloud seeding has many benefits to the country that participates in this process, it has the potential to breed hostilities between neighboring countries. That may seem far-fetched but consider this scenario:
Access to water is essential for the survival of any country. If the rich and powerful control the weather patterns in their areas, it could inflict constant drought conditions on their poorer neighbors. A hot and arid region that extracts extra rainfall through cloud seeding at the expense of its political neighbors could cause conflict. This could exacerbate poverty and cause famine.
Who would have thought that man had the potential to modify the weather and bring rain where there is drought? Dubai successfully extracts water from cloud seeding, even using drones to zap the clouds with electrical charges to encourage the water particles to join forces and form heavy raindrops.
As the region benefits from cloud seeding, it needs to double up on adjusting its infrastructure to cope with the excess water that could arise from flooding, as it did in early 2020. As technology develops, we need to develop and improve our environment to cope with it.