Let there be rain: UAE at the forefront of cloud-seeding

We are looking for outcomes that can benefit arid and semi-arid regions around the world using new technologies.

By Dr Abdullah Ahmed Al Mandous (Wide Angle)

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Published: Sun 6 Jan 2019, 7:56 PM

Last updated: Sun 6 Jan 2019, 9:58 PM

The UAE leadership has always been far-sighted and, as early as the 1990s, it recognised that our country - one of the world's most water-scarce - would benefit from the potential of cloud-seeding research. Though the science of rainfall enhancement was quite limited in scope then, the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs has now collaborated with some of the leading institutions globally to explore how research and development could ensure water security. After all, securing access to water is not a challenge faced by the UAE alone. The United Nations estimates that by 2030 almost half of the world's population could face high water stress.
Nearly three decades on from its initial work on cloud seeding, the UAE has shown the world what can be achieved by capitalising on the UAE's vision and rapidly evolving innovation ecosystem through its UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP). The National Center of Meteorology, of which I am the director, leads the country's rain enhancement efforts through the UAEREP, and we are proud to continue to advance the vision of the leadership in leveraging cloud seeding for water security.
The programme was launched in 2015 under the patronage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, with a call for research ideas seeking the best in rain enhancement research. Hundreds of international scientists and engineers were invited to submit their proposals for promising research to improve rain enhancement. Of these, nine winners were selected to receive grant funding for further research and development.
The UAEREP has nine awardees today who are running active projects covering a number of issues in rainfall enhancement. It ranges from the development of new seeding materials, to the use of unmanned drones for cloud seeding operations, advanced weather modelling to understand atmospheric chemistry and physics (as they relate to rainfall and cloud seeding operations). Major achievements have been made through these projects. For instance, Dr Linda Zou, a 2015 UAEREP winner and KU Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, is working to scale up the novel cloud seeding material she has developed.
Recently, the National Center of Meteorology announced a new project that establishes a rigorous, scientifically based international research and development programme to further leverage the value of UAEREP projects. This R&D programme will support and add to the efforts to stimulate and promote scientific advancement and the development of new technology.
The UAEREP will integrate the programme's nine projects, which are currently running in three cycles, into an advanced model titled 'Integrating Schemes from UAEREP projects' into a unified multi-component atmospheric model.
This integration is aimed at improving weather forecasting accuracy by leveraging the research findings of the awarded projects. This will be done by developing a unified model that integrates studies of micro physics, cloud chemistry, and cloud electrical properties. The model is expected to be operational by the end of 2020, coinciding with the completion of the UAEREP's third cycle. There is also a research platform for integrated weather research and forecasting models. The researchers will examine the effect of aerosols on cloud accumulation and development and the role terrain plays in the formation of various types of clouds.
The goal of this initiative is to bring to life the solid research achievements of the UAEREP. We are looking for outcomes that benefit arid and semi-arid regions around the world through new technologies. The whole exercise will improve the quality of cloud-seeding operations and also provide sustainable solutions to challenges in the wake of water scarcity.
We look forward to working with leading scientific institutions and see if enhanced rain can be a viable water source for the UAE and other arid countries.
Dr Abdullah Ahmed Al Mandous is Director, National Center of Meteorology, UAE

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