The UAE has launched a month-long cloud-seeding campaign aimed at improving technologies used to boost rainfall across the country.
The National Centre of Meteorology has joined forces with Stratton Park Engineering Company, a US-based climate research specialist, to conduct key experiments.
The Cloudix initiative – cloud-aerosol-electrical interactions for rainfall enhancement experiment – will capture the effectiveness of various cloud-seeding methods.
The NCM's cloud-seeding aircraft and Spec's own learjet will be equipped with advanced instruments and sensors in order to gather crucial data.
"A group of researchers and pilots will cross-examine the performance of different cloud seeding materials with and without electric charges," the NCM said.
The test flights began at Al Ain International Airport this week and will continue until the end of September, covering airspace in the Emirates and parts of Oman.
Spec won funding from the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science for its working investigating how electric charges could enhance seeding missions.
“This research campaign demonstrates NCM’s active role in promoting innovative research in areas related to national priorities including water security,” said Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, president of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and director general of NCM.
“At NCM, we are committed to empowering the local talent and ensuring their active engagement in the development of new technologies that increase rainfall for the benefit of future generations at risk of water shortage. Such efforts strengthen the UAE’s prominent role in addressing water sustainability challenges, particularly as the country is gearing up to host Cop28 in November.”
Under the scheme, NCM staff will be trained in how to conduct cloud physics research and analyse data.
The Emirates has been at the forefront of cloud seeding for decades to help address the country's typically arid climate, provide additional rainfall to support agriculture and tackle water security concerns.
Seeding is a complex process, with research pouring into the field to assess its effectiveness.
But it essentially involves shooting salt flares or other small materials into clouds to try to generate extra rain.
The UAE's seeding programme began in the 1990s. By the 2000s, the NCM were working with global peers, such as Nasa and the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in the United States.
Making it rain
In April, the NCM said it was to add more advanced cloud-seeding aircraft to its fleet.
The weather authority said it had signed an agreement with Calidus Aerospace in Abu Dhabi to acquire its high-tech plane.
The NCM said the Wx-80 turboprop aircraft can carry larger quantities of cloud-seeding materials and is equipped with sophisticated safety equipment and other systems.
Previously, the weather centre had primarily used Beechcraft KingAir C90 planes for seeding missions.
In January, Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, hailed the country's rain enhancement programme as key to bolstering water and food security, replenishing groundwater reserves and even driving tourism.
Ms Al Mheri spoke of the need to welcome more wet weather on the opening day of the International Rain Enhancement Forum in Abu Dhabi.
“While the immediate aim of rain enhancement is to increase rainfall, recharge groundwater, and enhanced freshwater supply, let us not forget the broader and far reaching impacts of rain on water and food security as well as tourism and weather moderation,” Ms Al Mheiri said.
“This is the underlying reason for rain enhancement to be one of the seven pillars of the UAE innovation strategy when it comes to research, continuous innovation and the complex science of weather modification."
The UAE conducted 311 cloud-seeding missions in 2022, clocking up close to 1,000 flying hours.