UAE aims to boost cloud seeding via artificial clouds, says top meteorologist

Dr Omar Al Yazeedi said the department was looking at new methods of generating rain

Powered by automated translation

One of the UAE’s leading meteorologists has said research is currently underway to help create artificial clouds.

Dr Omar Al Yazeedi, a director at the National Centre of Meteorology, said the department was looking at new methods of generating rainfall.

Speaking at a forum on weather modification, he said experts were considering whether solar energy could be harnessed to form new clouds.

How cloud seeding works

How cloud seeding works

Current cloud seeding operations work by creating rainfall from existing cloud formations.

"Since cloud seeding started in the UAE in the 1990s, there has been little growth in terms of methods," Dr Al Yazeedi told The National.

Stan Cooper / The National
Stan Cooper / The National

“Making our own clouds could be a possibility in the future. Eventually, the aim is to make more clouds and more rain.”

Dr Al Yazeedi made his remarks at the International Rain Enhancement Forum in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

He argued that boosting rainfall was becoming ever more critical given the increasing occurrence of drought brought on by climate change.

He said scientists in the Emirates were currently corroborating with experts from around the world to explore not only new cloud seeding methods but also ways to create artificial clouds.

Part of that research is focusing on generating updrafts using powerful jet engines. As the warm rising current reaches a point of condensation, it could help to form a cloud.

Cloud seeding works by artificially encouraging clouds to produce rain. One method involves planes fitted with flares loaded with salt crystals which are then fired into clouds.

As the cloud sucks up the crystals they attract tiny particles of water which collide and become heavier. The water then falls as rain.

In 2017, Dr Ali Abshaev, of the Rain Suppression Research Centre in Russia, shared a $5million grant awarded by the UAE’s Rain Enhancement Programme.

His research, which is assessing the possibilities of stimulating artificial clouds to enhance rainfall, remains ongoing and could prove effective.

Preliminary studies using 3D models have demonstrated that artificial updrafts can be created by heating up layers of air.

Over recent weeks, heavy rainfall across parts of the UAE has caused chaos, flooding roads networks and housing.

But Dr Al Yazeedi said cloud seeding was not to blame for the severe weather. Average rainfall in the country over the past three years has varied significantly.

Making our own clouds could be a possibility in the future

"These heavy rains were not all a result of cloud seeding operations," he said. "We can safely say that seeding increased rainfall by about 30 to 35 per cent but it was not the source of all rain."  
For successful cloud seeding to take place, Dr Al Yazeedi said a plane had to reach a target cloud within "20 to 30 minutes of it forming".

As a result he said pilots had recently been instructed to move their aircraft from Abu Dhabi city to a hangar in Al Ain, to be closer to more mountainous areas where clouds form.

“The perfect situation requires clean air, a good updraft and a quick response time," he said.

He added: “We are working to re-engineer dams and wadis in the country to improve water retention.

“As countries grow and develop they need to enhance infrastructure to keep up with change.

“Local citizens who own land in areas heavily affected by unstable weather conditions will be allocated land in safer parts of the Emirates.”

In 2017, NCM recorded an annual mean rainfall in the UAE of 107mm. That dropped to just 47mm in 2018 and increased to 101mm in 2019.

A total of 247 cloud seeding operations were carried out by NCM's four dedicated airplanes in 2019. So far this year, a total of 17 operations have been recorded.