Country's 'fake rain' cloud seeding to cope with soaring temperatures

·2-min read

Weather is impossible to predict — unless you live in the United Arab Emirates. 

With temperatures soaring to 50 degrees Celsius and water sources dwindling, scientists have been making it rain, using drones to zap clouds with electricity and prompting a downpour in a method called 'cloud seeding'.

The United Arab Emirates meteorological officials released a video this week with the hashtag #cloudseeding, showing cars driving through pouring rain, believed to be from the drones. 

Scientists have been using drones to make it rain in the United Arab Emirates.  Source: National centre of meteorology UAE
Scientists have been using drones to make it rain in the United Arab Emirates. Source: National centre of meteorology UAE

What is cloud seeding?

The man-made rainmaking technology is known as “cloud seeding", and it aims to make rain droplets stick together to make larger raindrops, so they won't evaporate before they hit the ground in high temperatures. 

Experts use drones are used to shoot electrical charges into clouds, which causes them to clump together and trigger more rainfall.

Due to the high temperatures in the UAE, raindrops often evaporate mid-air before they can hit the ground.

“What we are trying to do is to make the droplets inside the clouds big enough so that when they fall out of the cloud, they survive down to the surface,” meteorologist and researcher Keri Nicoll told CNN in May.

In the past, similar forms of cloud seeding have been used, but according to the Desert Research Institute and CNN, experts warned it was bad for the environment, as well as questioning the effectiveness of the method. 

Water is a huge issue in the UAE

On average, the UAE only has a rainfall of around 100mm a year.

In comparison, Australia's average rainfall in 2020 was 483.4mm, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

About 42 per cent of all water used in the country, and according to the UAE government, most of the UAE’s drinking water, comes from desalination plants with the country is still dependent on groundwater for two-thirds of its domestic requirements

According to State of Energy Report 2015, the demand for water grew largely at a rate of 35.8 per cent from 2008 to 2012.

“The water table is sinking drastically in [the] UAE,” University of Reading professor and meteorologist Maarten Ambaum told BBC News, “and the purpose of this [cloud seeding project] is to try to help with rainfall.”

The UAE invested $15 million in nine different rain-making projects in 2017, in an effort to help the dwindling water supply in the country. 

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