The United Arab Emirates is one of the driest and hottest countries on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of under 100 millimetres and temperatures that often exceed 40°C.
In contrast, the UK’s average is around 1 300 mm a year, which is just a little more than in Washington D.C., while South Africa sees an average annual rainfall of about 464 mm a year.
You get the gist – the UAE is very much a desert region.
The country also holds a sizeable population, which has surged over the last decade and now stands at 9,9 million according to The Washington Post
Meanwhile, water is terribly scarce:
The country uses about four billion cubic metres of [water] each year but has access to about four per cent of that in renewable water resources, according to the CIA.
That means that the country has to get creative when it comes to finding enough water and combatting the extreme heat, making the city liveable for its exploding population.
Luckily, the UAE has no problem with all things artificial.
Besides the artificial islands that really put the country on the map, the UAE also makes its own fake rain.
Sky News reports that the National Center of Meteorology (NCM) has implemented what they call cloud seeding technology using drones:
The drones fly into clouds and release electric charges, which helps water droplets merge together and form precipitation.
The NCM has carried out 126 cloud seeding flights since the beginning of 2021, according to Gulf Today.
Since last Tuesday, 14 flights have been carried out, which usually take between two to three hours.
The Washington Post with more on how that all works:
The larger raindrops that result then fall to the ground, instead of evaporating midair — which is often the fate of smaller droplets in the UAE, where temperatures are hot and the clouds are high.
“What we are trying to do is to make the droplets inside the clouds big enough so that when they fall out of the cloud, they survive down to the surface,” meteorologist and researcher Keri Nicoll [said].
In 2017, scientists from the University of Reading in England, one of whom is Nicoll, received $1,5 million for use over three years from the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science.
Professor Giles Harrison, also from the University of Reading, says the research is “intended to bring blue-sky thinking to cloud and rain”:
“Our project is about changing the balance of charges on the tiniest cloud droplets, a neglected aspect of clouds which could revolutionise our ability to manipulate rainfall in areas that need it most.”
UAE meteorological officials recently released a video of cars driving through an artificial downpour in Ras al Khaimah in the northern part of the country:
Another video shows cloud formation over the area with 3D radar imaging:
صور الرادار ثلاثية الأبعاد لحركة تكون السحب#أمطار #أمطار_الخير #استمطار #تلقيح_السحب #المركز_الوطني_للأرصاد
3D Radar images of cloud formation over the area#rain #cloudseeding #national_Center_of_Meteorology pic.twitter.com/TuPBK9kU3g
— المركز الوطني للأرصاد (@NCMS_media) July 21, 2021
That’s not all the country has done in its quest to close the gap between the demand for water and its supply.
Besides an intensive desalination programme, which transforms seawater into freshwater by removing the salt, there has also been some talk of building a mountain to create rainfall, building a pipeline from Pakistan, and floating icebergs down from the Arctic.
Let’s hope they’ve done their homework on what these changes would mean for the natural environment and the impact they will have on existing ecosystems.