UAE: Cloud-seeding operations up rainfall by 15 per cent annually

Seeding operations amount to approximately Dh29,000 for every flight hour, reports global climate journal

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Nandini Sircar

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Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT
Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT

Published: Wed 27 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 27 Dec 2023, 11:13 PM

The UAE generates at least 15 per cent extra rainfall through cloud seeding efforts annually.

That’s according to a recent article published by the Nature Research journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science which states that the UAE's cloud seeding efforts approximately yield an additional 168-838 million cubic metres of rainfall each year.

The Nature paper also states that the usable water volume from the cloud seeding operations overseen by the United Arab Emirates Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) falls within the range of 84-419 million cubic metres.

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This amount stands as a notable portion of the overall approximately 6.7 billion cubic metres of rainfall received annually in the UAE, with the cloud seeding operations amounting to approximately Dh29,000 (US$8,000) for every flight hour.

Alya Al Mazroui, Director of the UAEREP, said: “The remarkable technological and scientific advancements achieved by UAEREP continue to gain global recognition due to their significant potential for wider applications in countries facing similar water scarcity challenges.”

The UAE, on average, conducts over 900 hours of cloud-seeding missions every year with the government making substantial investments in research and technology.

Launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE and managed by the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science is an ambitious initiative of global scope designed to stimulate rain enhancement research and improve water security.

She added: “These advancements have not only positioned the UAE at the forefront of rain enhancement research but have also inspired global interest in rain enhancement research as a viable and sustainable alternative to our conventional fresh-water sources.”

The country has also partnered with international organisations and experts in the field to improve its cloud-seeding capabilities.

Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT
Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT

How is cloud seeding done in the UAE?

In the UAE, cloud seeding is a meticulously organised procedure carried out by meteorologists and specialists from the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM). This process comprises various stages, including weather analysis, planning, execution, and monitoring.

Special flares containing nucleating agents are released into clouds during cloud seeding. This encourages the droplets within the clouds to increase in size until they become sufficiently heavy to fall as precipitation.

In an earlier interview with Khaleej Times, Captain Mark Newman who has spent over a decade piloting NCM’s cloud-seeding aircrafts said, “We fly to a target cloud set by operations (team). We get there and fly around the base of the cumulus clouds.”

Captain Mark Newman. Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT
Captain Mark Newman. Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT

He added, “As soon as we pick up an updraft from that cloud, we then put ourselves into an orbit. We fly in a circular pattern underneath that cloud. That is where we release the salt particles from the flare to enhance the cloud conductivity. Once we have done that, then we move away from the cloud.”

Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT
Photo: Rahul Gajjar/KT

Combat climate change

Additionally, the UAE's rain enhancement initiative through cloud-seeding efforts, as detailed in the Nature paper, offers a substantial prospect for rainfall augmentation as a practical solution to combat the escalating effects of climate change on water and food security, both locally and internationally.

Meanwhile, the article highlights that the cost per unit of harvested seeded rainfall ranges from US$0.01 to US$0.04 per cubic metre.

Photo: File
Photo: File

This also presents a marked difference from the reported cost of $0.31 per cubic metre for producing desalinated water in the country, therefore, demonstrating a considerable cost benefit over desalination.

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