Cloud-seeding not responsible for UAE storms, confirms National Centre of Meteorology

Forecasters say the weather is typical for this time of year

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The UAE’s cloud-seeding programme is not responsible for creating thunderstorms, the National Centre of Meteorology has said.

Many people on social media speculated on Wednesday that the bureau's work was responsible for torrential downpours that swept across the country.

But speaking on Wednesday, the NCM said volatile weather systems are too dangerous for pilots to approach so seeding - when salt flares are fired into clouds to attract rain - would not take place.

Experts added that this type of weather is typical for the UAE at this time.

Cloud seeding involves shooting salt flares into suitable clouds. Courtesy National Centre of Meteorology 
Cloud seeding involves shooting salt flares into suitable clouds. Courtesy National Centre of Meteorology 

The comments came on a day when rain lashed many parts of the country. The Northern Emirates bore the brunt of the storms with torrential downpours hammering Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain. The NCM seeding planes were active on Wednesday but did not create an extreme weather front, it said.

“All we do is try to strengthen some clouds,” said an NCM forecaster. “Some say we are responsible for storms. We are not responsible for this.

“Aircraft do not go inside storm clouds if they are strong or dangerous."

How cloud seeding works

How cloud seeding works

The UAE’s cloud-seeding programme started in the 1990s and is based in Al Ain. When experts see a cloud that is suitable, a small plane is dispatched from Al Ain to “seed” the cloud with salt flares that naturally attract water. The aim is to enhance rain, not to create it. It is thought seeding can enhance rainfall by about 15 per cent in the UAE’s dusty atmosphere but the NCM has said more research is needed to determine its true impact.

The UAE conducts hundreds of missions every year. Summer is also an important time with operations running four days a week from July to September.

It is hoped the programme may provide more water for crops in a country with an annual rainfall rate of about 100mm a year.

The weather, meanwhile, is expected to stay unsettled until Thursday. But wet winters are historically the norm, not the exception, in the region’s history

“It is very common as we are in the season now,” said the forecaster. “This is expected.”