UAE: 3 cloud-seeding techniques, 40 flight hours in 4 weeks as new rain enhancement experiment launched

Flights aim to assess effectiveness of various innovative cloud-seeding methods in increasing rainfall and ultimately help understand which technique is most efficient

by

Nandini Sircar

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Mon 11 Sep 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 11 Sep 2023, 11:42 PM

The UAE will fly several cloud-seeding missions over the course of a month as part of its fifth rain enhancement cycle under a new research initiative. The UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement (UAEREP), managed by the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), launched the 'Cloud-Aerosol-Electrical Interactions for Rainfall Enhancement Experiment (CLOUDIX)' earlier this month.

The month-long, pan-UAE drive aims to investigate the performance of three different cloud-seeding techniques with and without electric charge.


In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Alya Almazroui, director of UAEREP, said: "As part of the CLOUDIX campaign, we are planning to conduct a total of 40 flight hours spread over four weeks using the NCM's cloud-seeding aircraft and an instrumented Learjet aircraft operated by Stratton Park Engineering Company (SPEC), a US-based company specialising in cloud physics research and instrumentation. Each mission is usually between two to three hours in duration."

Alya Almazroui, director of UAEREP
Alya Almazroui, director of UAEREP

These flights aim to assess the effectiveness of various innovative cloud-seeding methods in increasing rainfall and ultimately help understand which technique is most efficient.


"These field campaigns are designed to evaluate the potential to enhance rainfall further through the innovative cloud-seeding methods being tested. By experimenting with various seeding approaches, we anticipate that these campaigns could lead to a more effective cloud-seeding approach and, consequently, increased rainfall in the targeted areas. We will continue our mass data collection and analysis to determine which of the methodologies being tested demonstrate better results," said Almazroui.

3 cloud-seeding techniques

In its latest campaign, the UAE is experimenting with three seeding approaches:

— Nanomaterial seeding involves the introduction of extremely small particles into clouds to serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei. These particles provide sites for water vapour to condense or freeze around, promoting the formation of cloud droplets or ice crystals.

— Large salt particle seeding involves dispersing hygroscopic (water-attracting) salts, such as potassium iodide or sodium chloride, into clouds. These salt particles serve as cloud condensation nuclei, promoting the formation of cloud droplets.

— Conventional hygroscopic flares are pyrotechnic devices that disperse hygroscopic substances, such as silver iodide, into clouds. Silver iodide acts as an ice nucleating agent, encouraging the formation of ice crystals in supercooled water droplets.

These seeding agents will be tested with or without releasing electric charges.

"This contrasts with our usual cloud-seeding missions, which primarily focus on one specific seeding method to increase rainfall," said Almazroui. "In the CLOUDIX campaign, we are also targeting various cloud types and conditions, allowing us to assess the effectiveness of different seeding methods and technologies across diverse scenarios. In contrast, our standard missions often concentrate on specific cloud types or conditions."

The choice of cloud-seeding technique depends on various factors, including the type of cloud, weather conditions, environmental considerations, and the specific goals of the operation.

Almazroui pointed out that these initiatives helmed by globally renowned researchers have yielded remarkable results in the past.

The experiment is specially designed to gain a deeper understanding of the complex mechanisms that govern precipitation in the atmosphere and explore the potential for weather modification.

Investing in a greener future

Explaining the scale of investments, Almazroui said: "UAEREP has been at the forefront of innovation in rain enhancement, showcasing its commitment through four prior cycles. Over the course of these cycles, the programme dedicated a substantial investment of over Dh65.7 million ($18 million) to support 11 pioneering projects."

The programme strives to enhance global water security. This initiative focuses on identifying scientifically validated and environmentally sustainable approaches to boost rainfall, not only in the country but also in other arid and semi-arid regions within the vicinity.

"This includes acquiring five patents and publishing over 92 research papers in esteemed scientific journals. As we embark on the fifth cycle, we anticipate bringing fresh advancements to the realm of rain enhancement. Notably, we've embraced a new standard of technological readiness, aiming for a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6 out of 9 as a key criterion for selecting our projects. This shift underscores our commitment to pushing the boundaries of innovation in this critical field. In addition to the TRL criterion, UAEREP is placing emphasis on lifecycle-focused approaches aimed at deepening our understanding of rain enhancement processes."

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