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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 9 March 2021

UAE could set new fog record this month, but where is the rain?

Residents woken to thick fog on 12 days in February, yet it has barely rained in 12 months

If you are tired of waking up to fog, you are not alone.

The UAE has had more than its fair share of gloomy morning weather this year – with thick fog developing across large areas on all but five days in February so far.

By contrast, the skies are much drier than average, with less rainfall than in years gone by, prompting President Sheikh Khalifa in December to call for prayers for more.

Both phenomena are due to the same cause: high-pressure weather systems, which keep the weather calm and clear.

Last year we have had too much low pressure coming from west to the east. This year it is a different story

Ahmed Habib, National Centre of Meteorology

“Last year we had too much low pressure coming from west to the east. This increases cloud and rain associated with it,” said Ahmed Habib, a forecaster with the National Centre of Meteorology.

“This year it is a different story. We have high pressure, which causes stable weather in general in our area. Also we have an extension of high pressure in the upper air. So we have had more stable weather this year than other years.

“This is why we are seeing more fog. Stable weather creates the chance of fog.”

The UAE’s record stretch of fog is 20 days in one month, so there is still some way to go in February. But with 11 days left, it is possible, although according to the forecast there is virtually zero chance this Thursday or Friday.

Meteorologists said there was a chance the east and north of the Emirates could have fog on Saturday. And possibly even some light rain over scattered areas between Friday and Sunday.

On average there are a couple of rainy days per month over the winter, and February is traditionally the wettest month with an average of 6.3 millimetres of rain.

But this season has recorded virtually none, with the last torrential storm taking place on November 20.

“It is less than the season average,” Mr Habib said.

“But you know, sometimes if you [look back] 20 years ago, at the climate data, you can find a circular pattern. Rain came in waves. Some years there was more rain. Another there wouldn’t be a lot.

“So we can also say it’s happened before.”

In December, Sheikh Khalifa said Salaat Al Istisqaa prayers should be performed in all mosques and musallahs across the country on December 18.

The special prayer is typically requested in the UAE once every few years and is observed in other Gulf countries as well.

It happened because, according to the sunnah of the Prophet, the leader of a state must issue an order for the prayer to be performed when rainfall is delayed.

Rain-seeking prayers, or Istisqaa, were also performed at the Grand Mosque of Makkah in Saudi Arabia in November.

That followed a record-breaking year of storms in the UAE in 2020, when a week of rain in January led to widespread flooding.

Motorways and homes were deluged, and in Dubai more than 3,000 municipality staff worked around the clock to drain water from affected areas.

Whether this year's drought continues through to the end of March, when the UAE typically receives rain, if at all, is anyone’s guess at this point.

“Long-range weather forecasting is not very accurate,” Mr Habib said.

Updated: February 18, 2021 06:48 PM

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