COP28: UAE to export cloud-seeding technology to water-scarce countries

The announcement came following the pledge made by the UAE on Saturday to allocate $150 million in new funding for water security solutions

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Angel Tesorero

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Technician attaching Hygroscopic (water-attracting) salt flares to an aircraft at Al Ain International Airport before a cloud-seeding on Oct 12. 2023. Photo: Rahul Gajjar
Technician attaching Hygroscopic (water-attracting) salt flares to an aircraft at Al Ain International Airport before a cloud-seeding on Oct 12. 2023. Photo: Rahul Gajjar

Published: Sun 3 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 3 Dec 2023, 3:31 PM

Given its advancement in cloud seeding, the UAE will actively share its knowledge and experience in rain-enhancement technology to help address water scarcity in many parts of the world.

This was shared by Omar Al Yazeedi, deputy director general of the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the ongoing COP28 or the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai.

The announcement came following the pledge made by the UAE on Saturday to allocate $150 million in new funding for water security solutions in vulnerable countries. Water is on top of the UAE’s agenda at the UN Climate Summit, where water experts are actively taking part to address the challenges of global warming.

Al Yazeedi noted the UAE has been at the forefront of rain-enhancement science for more than two decades, and cloud-seeding has helped increase the country’s annual rainfall and reduced its reliance on seawater desalination.

“We are happy to share our knowledge with other countries participating at COP28,” he added.

Rain and food security

Noting that almost half of the world's population could face high water stress by 2030, Al Yazeedi pointed out rain enhancement is a viable and economical alternative water solution suitable for arid and semi-arid regions.

Cloud seeding, Al Yazeedi explained, “can increase the amount of rainfall by 15 to 25 per cent and this will help recharge groundwater and enhance freshwater supply, which in turn will benefit local agriculture and boost food security.”

Al Yazeedi said the country is consistently improving cloud-seeding technology with its UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP), aimed at providing up to $1.5 million funding to a winning proposal. The programme has also demonstrated that cloud seeding is a reliable method for rain enhancement.

The key factor to successful cloud-seeding is spotting the right convective clouds with rain-bearing capacity. A special aircraft is used to shoot salt flares into these clouds to enhance rainfall and in April this year, the NCM added more advanced cloud-seeding aircraft to its fleet.

Cost-effective

Last year, the UAE conducted 311 cloud-seeding missions, clocking up around 1,000 flying hours. According to Al Yazeedi, cloud-seeding is a lot cheaper than desalinating sea water. A cubic metre of water produced through cloud-seeding is just 1 fil as compared to 60 fils needed to desalinate the same amount of water.

He also assured that cloud-seeding is safe for humans and the environment. The material used is a mixture of salt (sodium chloride, potassium chloride) that is carried out into the middle of the cloud to activate the condensation process and “make the water heavy to fall to the ground.”

“The cloud area is huge – we only use between 800 grams to one kilo of salt to an area of about 30km by 40km and the height of the cloud can sometimes go up to 18km from the base. Our aim for cloud-seeding is to increase both the amount of rainfall and its duration,” he added.

Early warning system

Aside from cloud-seeding, another climate resiliency campaign the NCM is pushing at COP28 is the promotion of ‘Early Warnings for All,’ a global initiative by the World Meteorological Organisation – where the UAE is currently its president – aimed at disaster risk reduction.

Al Yazeedi noted early warning systems are a must to save lives and reduce economic losses in any natural disasters. “NCM will help to cover some gaps in the field of observation and early warning, especially in countries and communities that lack weather stations, radars, or access to satellites.”

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