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UAE: Cloudseeding boosts rains by up to 25%; NCM eyes drones to zap clouds

'We can do it the whole year, even during summer. Not many people know that'



by

Anjana Sankar

Published: Tue 18 Jan 2022, 9:32 AM

Cloud seeding operations conducted by the UAE enhances rain by 10 to 25 percent and the country is currently looking at AI (Artificial Intelligence) and new nano particles to triple the capacity, the director of the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) told Khaleej Times.

“We are conducting a lot of studies. What we are looking forward to is to enhance the efficiency further. That is the challenge,” said Alya Al Mazroui.

Since 2015, the UAE has tried and tested different methodologies to enhance rain and address issues of water security, but Al Mazroui said cloud seeding has been the “most efficient” so far.

The UAE records an average of 100 mm of precipitation every year. However, in recent years, the intensity of rainfall has gradually increased in the country and it is credited to the cloud seeding operations conducted by the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM). The end of 2021 and the beginning of the new year saw the highest recorded amount of rain fall in the country with the Saih Al Salam region in Dubai, recorded 141.8 mm of rain, according to the NCM.

Al Mazroui said cloud seeding can be carried out 24 hours. “We can do it the whole year, even during summer. Not many people know that,” said the official. “We have a roaster of pilots who are ready to take to the skies in our specially made aircraft to do cloud seeding.”

Currently, the UAE carried out cloud seeding by identifying convective clouds and injecting small ice-like particles to modify the clouds to increase the chance of precipitation. Harmless natural salts such as potassium chloride and sodium chloride are used for cloud seeding.

Al Mazroui said the operation largely depends on whether they can find ‘seedable clouds’ which again depends on weather conditions.

“We have not yet reached a point here I can say that we can create a cloud that is seedable. We are working on that. Our job is to enhance the precipitation or the amount of rain the clouds can produce.”

She said the UAE is “strongly looking” at the possibility of using drones for cloud seeding. “We have used drones but only for research purposes.” In 2017, Prof Frew Eric from the University of Colorado developed a project that used the UAVs for seeding observation.

Largely an arid land, the UAE started investing in rain enhancement science with an aim to address water shortages in future and developed cutting edge technologies in weather modification. It cooperated with organizations such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, USA, and the US Space Agency, NASA. The UAE now has more than 60 networked weather stations, an integrated radar network, and five specialised aircraft for seeding operations.

The UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science was launched in 2015 by the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) to support and fund new innovations and international research projects in rain augmentation science and technology. Last week, the programme announced its fourth cycle grant awardees - Dr. Bradley Baker and Dr. Luca Delle Monache. Dr Baker won the grant for his proposal in ‘Enhancing Precipitation in the UAE Using Hygroscopic Nano-materials’ and the second awardee Dr Monache, who is the deputy director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) at University of California, San Diego, was awarded for his research work titled ‘A Hybrid Machine Learning Framework for Enhanced Precipitation Nowcasting’.

Speaking about the potential of the new projects, Al Mazroui said they are looking at the use of AI and new nano particles and whether they can triple the efficiency.

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“These new projects will continue to enhance our rain enhancement covering new technologies and innovations. The most important point here is this will happen with close cooperation with the old ones we had funded in the previous cycle. The objective of the programme is to build a scientific community specialized in the rain enhancement and strengthening the areas of cooperation among its members under the umbrella of UAEREP.

Since 2015, Al Mazroui said the programme has tied up with 1800 researchers from 800 institutions across 70 countries in five continents.

“We have worked with 450 research proposals, and have registered four patents and fifth is on the way. We have so far published 82 peer reviewed articles. That summarises the achievements of UAE’s rain enhancement programme,” she said.


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