UAE weather: It is the wettest July since 1978, so what is causing the deluge?

A low-pressure system from India, which is experiencing monsoons, is bringing the unsettled conditions

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The UAE’s east coast has been hammered by torrential rain and strong winds over the past few days.

Flash flooding occurred in parts of Sharjah’s Khor Fakkan on Wednesday with some families having to be rescued from their inundated homes.

The National Centre of Meteorology told The National this is the wettest July in the UAE since 1978. Most rain was recorded at a rain gauge in Fujairah Port, where 234.9 millimetres was recorded between 10.30pm on July 25 and 9.18am on Thursday, July 28.

The second highest was at Masafi ― 209.7mm ― with the third highest recorded at Fujairah Airport with 187.9mm.

Considering the UAE's annual rainfall is about 100mm a year, the statistics underline the intensity of the weather conditions.

What is causing the current weather?

Low pressure systems drifting across from India, which is experiencing annual monsoons, are bringing the unsettled weather.

The NCM forecast the unsettled weather last weekend and said on Thursday that similar conditions could be expected for the next few days, although probably not with the intensity seen on Wednesday.

“The general situation today [Thursday] is better,” an NCM forecaster said.

“The low pressure systems are slightly weaker with rainfall expected to be of less intensity,” he said.

“But we still have low pressure, convective clouds and a chance of rain across the country, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai.”

UAE weather: Lightning and rain in Khor Fakkan

UAE weather: Lightning and rain in Khor Fakkan

Is this normal?

Some rainfall and cloud cover is common every year during the summer ― especially in the east ― because of the monsoon systems. They bring moist air across the ocean to the Arabian Peninsula where it then hits the Hajar Mountains and sometimes causes rain.

This causes the “khareef” phenomenon in southern Oman, where summer rains turn the desert green, and occasional downpours in eastern UAE.

But the NCM said the rains this year are more intense than in previous years.

“This cycle started around July 25,” the NCM forecaster said. “It is normal to experience cloud and rain at this time of year but there is more this time.”

What is the role of the cloud-seeding programme?

The UAE’s cloud-seeding programme has been in operation since the 1990s. Planes are sent to fire salt flares at clouds in the hope of inducing more rain. Salt naturally attracts water.

Summer can be a good time for seeding, although the NCM said that seeding attempts only to enhance rainfall, not create downpours, and they do not operate in times of major storms.

“If clouds show signs of heavy rain, and those likely to cause floods, we do not undertake cloud-seeding operations,” Sufian Farrah, cloud-seeding specialist at the NCM, previously told The National.

UAE invests in flood defences

The government acted swiftly to help those in need and teams rescued families from flooded homes and provided emergency accommodation.

Authorities also previously announced key projects to safeguard against flooding. After storms swept across the UAE in January 2020, a UAE minister pledged Dh500 million of investment including dams and flyovers to reduce disruption caused by flooding.

Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development, told the Federal National Council that several key projects were under way.

When will the unsettled conditions end?

The unsettled weather is expected to continue into next week at least. The NCM has forecast strong winds, dust clouds and a chance of rain until Monday.

“We expect a chance of rain over the next few days, especially in the east, as the low-pressure systems are still active,” the NCM forecaster said. “But we don’t anticipate falls of rain like yesterday."

Updated: July 28, 2022, 2:14 PM