UAE shortlists research projects for $1.5m grant to boost cloud seeding efforts

The National Centre of Meteorology has welcomed ideas from across the world to increase rainfall

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Dozens of scientists and researchers from around the globe are in the running for a $1.5 million grant to aid the UAE's efforts to boost cloud seeding and improve water security across the region and beyond.

The National Centre of Meteorology has selected eight promising research projects using the latest scientific methods and cutting-edge technology to address water scarcity for final evaluation before the key funds are awarded next year.

The fourth cycle of the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science initially received 81 pre-proposals from 378 scientists and researchers affiliated with 159 institutions across 37 countries on five continents.

This number has now been whittled down to the final eight projects, who impressed the technical review committee with their work in areas such as cloud microphysics, cloud seeding assessment, new seeding materials assessment, droplet charge measurement, cloud seeding prediction support, and the use of artificial intelligence techniques.

Alya Al Mazroui, director of the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science, said the scientific input will help ensure a water-secure future.

“During the evaluation process, the international technical review committee focused on proposals that can make a valuable addition to the UAE’s ambitious efforts to address water scarcity challenges in arid and semi-arid regions across the globe," she said.

"The shortlisted proposals stood out for their high quality and scientific merit. At the programme, we are committed to driving the development of rain enhancement research given its importance in ensuring a water-secure future. We look forward to the special event to be held beginning of next year to reveal more details about the winning projects.”

The $1.5 million grant for each winning research proposal — set to be announced at an event in January — will be distributed over three years, allowing teams to move their work from theory to practice.

Cloud seeding key to UAE strategy

Cloud seeding has been integral to the UAE's drive to boost rainfall in arid desert climates for decades.

Increasing rain is viewed as key to supporting water needs as well as aiding agriculture, allowing the Emirates to be less reliant on food imports and to become self-sufficient.

Cloud seeding is a method used to improve a cloud's ability to produce rain. Seeding involves shooting crystals, such as salt, into the cloud. Salt naturally attracts water, causing the water particles to collide with others, get bigger and hopefully fall as rain.

The UAE's seeding programme began in the 1990s and authorities conduct hundreds of missions every year when the conditions are right.

The NCM said seeding can boost rainfall from an individual cloud by as much as 35 per cent in a "clean atmosphere" and by up to 15 per cent in a dusty one. The lower figure is probably more representative of the UAE but authorities say more studies are needed.

Emirates embraces technology

Last month the NCM said it was considering using drones to boost its cloud seeding programme.

It followed key field tests in the US state of Colorado, to measure the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The research, led by Prof Eric Frew of the University of Colorado, was carried out using three drones. Two were loaded with complex instruments to take cloud measurements, while the third seeded clouds.

A supercomputer is also being built to help the UAE’s national forecaster to predict weather patterns more accurately and improve cloud-seeding missions.

The high-performance computer, named Atmosphere, will allow meteorologists to better gauge how and when extreme weather will affect the region.

Developed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, it will process data up to 600 per cent faster than the current prediction software used by the NCM.

Updated: November 14, 2021, 11:58 AM