Heavens to open: thunderstorm warning for Pope Mass in Abu Dhabi

Despite reports, official forecasters warn it is too early to make accurate predictions for Tuesday next week

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - February 28th, 2018: People run for cover as the rain comes down. Wednesday, February 28th, 2018. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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A rare downpour in Abu Dhabi or even thunderstorms may coincide with the Pope’s historic open-air Mass next week, forecasters warned.

Showers have been predicted for next Tuesday morning. Thousands of worshippers will be inside Zayed Sports City Stadium around that time to witness Pope Francis's address. Quite a few people will even start from Dubai the previous night, leaving 11 hours before the 10.30am Mass.

The early forecast was made by the popular website Accuweather. While typical sunshine is predicted every other day next week, it has forecast "morning showers" and cloud for Tuesday.

Accuweather's forecast could spell bad news for thousands of Catholics looking forward to seeing the Pope celebrate Mass in Abu Dhabi

Accuweather's predictions are that there will be four hours of rain, with a 20 per cent chance of thunderstorms.

Windy, a website that provides weather forecast visualisation for wind, rain and snow, showed heavy thunderstorms moving across the Emirates early on Monday morning before clearing out by Tuesday.

Any downfalls would be unwelcome for many of the 130,000 people who will be inside Zayed Sports City Stadium for Mass. Although some of the stands are covered, worshippers will also be situated on the pitch area and in the grounds around the stadium, which are open to the elements. Most will have to wait for several hours before the Pope begins to celebrate Mass.

However, local experts warned against making predictions this far ahead. The UAE’s official forecaster, the National Centre for Meteorology, only issues forecasts five days in advance, as its experts believe this is the longest period for which weather can be predicted with accuracy.

“I can say that on Sunday morning there will an increasing of clouds in the skies,” forecaster Ali Al Musallam said. “But we do not know whether rain will fall at that time.”

Mr Al Musallam said making long-term forecasts in sub-tropical climates is more difficult than in places such as northern Europe.

“The day after tomorrow, Tuesday will be included in our bulletin," he said. "But regarding other websites and other models, yes they are predicting, but their forecasts might change."