The UAE is one of the most arid countries on Earth, and it hopes this controversial technique could help to increase its annual rainfall. As per records, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is among the world’s top 10 driest countries that receives an annual rainfall of merely 78mm. This is 15 times less than what pours over UK on average annually. In order to tackle this issue, the UAE has decided to squeeze out every last drop of rain from the clouds by making use of cloud seeding. The purpose of cloud seeding is to increase condensation in the hope that it might trigger a downpour.
The country’s National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) is now attempting to tackle the problem by running a cloud seeding program. There are two main sources of water in Abu Dhabi: Desalinated seawater and groundwater. While groundwater is used for agriculture in Al Ain and Liwa, drinking water is provided almost entirely from desalinated seawater across the Emirates. In 2008, groundwater contributed 71% to total water demand for all purposes, desalinated water 24% and treated wastewater 5%.
Mark Newman, deputy chief pilot at NCMS said, “As soon as they see some convective cloud formations, they launch us on a flight to investigate.” If the conditions are right, the pilots will attempt to seed the cloud. He also stated that summer is the busiest time for these missions since clouds are forming over the eastern Al-Hajar Mountains during this time. He further told that the updraft determines the number of salt missiles that need to be fired, “If we’ve got a mild updraft, we usually burn one or two flares. If we’ve got a good updraft, we burn four, sometimes six flares into the cloud. It is fantastic… As soon as there is rain, there is a lot of excitement. We can hear the guys in the office are happy.”
As per Omar al-Yazeedi, head of research at NCMS, cloud seeding is cheaper than desalinating water. In 2010, four days of heavy rain that was induced by cloud seeding resulted in a downpour that was equivalent of 9 years output from a single desalination plant located in Abu Dhabi. He said, “This shows that there is a huge amount of water that could be tapped… It is a source that cannot be ignored.”
Its Abu Dhabi-based forecasters monitor weather radars to tell pilots flying official government aircraft when to take off on rain-inducing missions. Even though the majority of water requirement is met by desalination process, it is a rather expensive process that includes also the transportation to the interior locations. Seems like the UAE has found a cheaper and more economical alternative as of now, but will it be effective on the longer run? Will it have any adverse effect on the already arid climate? Only time can say.