Artificial rain with drones, electricity
The UAE, parched by heat waves and an arid climate, is testing new technology to zap clouds with electricity to artificially create rain.
Similar forms of cloud seeding have been around for decades. But the process generally used saline flairs and raised concerns about the environment, expense and efficiency, according to the Desert Research Institute and CNN.
So the UAE is now testing a new method that flies drones in the clouds to give them an electric shock to trigger rain production, the BBC and CNN have previously reported.
There is renewed interest in the project after the UAE’s National Meteorological Center recently posted a series of videos on Instagram of heavy rains in parts of the country. Water gushed along the trees and cars drove on soggy roads. The videos were accompanied by radar images of clouds marked “#cloudseeding”.
The Independent reports that the recent rains are part of the drone cloud seeding project.
The United Arab Emirates have used other cloud seeding methods involving salt flares in the past. The United Arab Emirates oversaw more than 200 cloud seeding operations during the first half of 2020, successfully creating excessive precipitation, National News reported.
There have been successes in the United States, as well as in China, India and Thailand. Long-term cloud seeding in the mountains of Nevada has increased snowpack by 10% or more each year, according to a study published by the American Meteorological Society. A 10-year cloud-seeding experiment in Wyoming resulted in a 5-10% increase in snowpack, according to the state of Wyoming.
The practice is used in at least eight states in the western United States and dozens of countries, Scientific American reported.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the first countries in the Arabian Gulf region to use cloud seeding technology, according to the National Meteorological Center website.
Maarten Ambaum, a researcher who was part of the team that worked on the drone initiative, told the BBC that the UAE project aims to change the balance of electric charge on the droplets of cloud, causing water droplets to clump together and fall as rain. when they are big enough.
The efforts are part of the country’s “continued quest to ensure water security” since the 1990s through the United Arab Emirates’ research program for improved rains, according to the center.
Water security remains one of the UAE’s “main future challenges”, as the country depends on groundwater for two-thirds of its water needs, according to the National Meteorological Center website. The arid nation faces low rainfall, high temperatures and high evaporation rates from surface water, according to the center. Coupled with increased demand due to strong population growth, this places the UAE in a precarious water security situation, according to the center.
But improved rainfall can “offer a viable and cost-effective supplement to existing water supplies,” particularly amid dwindling water resources around the world, the center said.
“While most of us take free water for granted, we must remember that it is a precious and limited resource,” according to the center.
Cloud seeding projects could also improve air quality in the UAE in recent years, according to a 2021 study conducted by the American University of Sharjah.
So far, rain improvement projects have focused on mountainous regions in the northeast of the country, where cumulus clouds gather in summer, according to the website of the National Meteorological Center.