17 Apr 2024

Why desert city of Dubai is facing deluge of heavy rain? Is it natural or man-made disaster?

Dubai: Dubai, typically characterized by its arid climate and scorching temperatures, faced a deluge of heavy rain on Tuesday, leading to widespread flooding across the desert nation. 

The desert-city of Dubai experienced an unusual start to the week as heavy rainfall lashed several parts of the city and other areas in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well. According to local news agencies and the weather department, the sudden rainstorms that drenched UAE dumped over a year-and-half worth’s rainfall on Dubai in just a few hours.

This unexpected rainfall not only disrupted the usual rhythm of the bustling city but also raised concerns about the increasing impact of climate change on extreme weather events in the region.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the average annual rainfall is less than 200 millimeters, and summer temperatures can soar up to 50 degrees Celsius, the pressure on water resources is intense, exacerbated by heavy reliance on groundwater sources.

UAE has pioneered cloud seeding

In response to this pressing challenge, the UAE has pioneered innovative solutions, including cloud seeding, a form of weather modification aimed at enhancing precipitation. But how does cloud seeding work?

Cloud seeding is a technique involving the introduction of "seeding agents" into clouds to stimulate the condensation process and induce rainfall. Meteorologists monitor atmospheric conditions and identify suitable clouds for seeding based on precipitation patterns.

Country's artificial rain program received significant support

The UAE began experimenting with cloud seeding in 1982, and by the early 2000s, the country's artificial rain program had received significant support through collaborative scientific and technical research with institutions such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado, USA, Witwatersrand University in South Africa, and NASA.

The Rain Enhancement Program (UAEREP), managed by the Emirates' National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), spearheads these efforts.

Scientists identify effective agents for stimulating cloud growth

Scientists involved in the program have focused on analyzing the physical and chemical characteristics of the UAE's atmosphere to identify effective agents for stimulating cloud growth and increasing rainfall.

Once suitable clouds are identified, specialized aircraft are deployed. The seeding agent facilitates the condensation of water droplets when they are released into the target clouds. This eventually leads to precipitation in the form of rain.

Is it playing with nature?

Despite the potential benefits of cloud seeding, concerns have been raised regarding its environmental impact and the safety of the seeding agents used. In response, the Dubai's National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) has taken measures to ensure the safety and sustainability of its operations.

Unlike some other countries' cloud seeding programs that use silver iodide, a material that has raised environmental concerns, the UAE's program avoids harmful chemicals and instead utilizes natural salts as seeding agents.

The NCM has developed its own seeding agent, known as nano material, consisting of fine salt coated with titanium oxide. This material is currently undergoing trials and experimentation to assess its effectiveness in enhancing precipitation.

There have also been concerns about the ethical implications of manipulating nature. With the region experiencing unprecedented weather events such as storms and heavy rainfall leading to floods, some caution against interfering with the natural order, suggesting that such events might be nature's way of "pushing back."

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