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Cloud seeding in UAE: a key strategy to tackle water scarcity

  • Cloud seeding in UAE: key strategy to tackle water scarcity

About the entity

In the pursuit of water security amidst the challenges posed by climate change, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been at the forefront of innovative solutions. Although it has made great strides towards water security, the country still depends on groundwater for about two-thirds of its domestic demand. The UAE Rain Enhancement Program (UAEREP) emerged as an initiative to improve water security in arid and semi-arid areas. It is managed by the Emirates’ National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) as part of its mission to support research in weather modification.

Rain enhancement, more commonly known as cloud seeding, promises a viable and cost-effective way to supplement water supplies. It works by introducing seeding agents into clouds to stimulate the condensation process and enhance precipitation. “The UAE carries out nearly 300 cloud-seeding missions each year, and the frequency can vary based on factors such as weather patterns, cloud availability, and climatic conditions,” an NCM official told Al Arabiya English, adding that a similar number of missions would be carried out in 2024.

The UAE’s rain enhancement operations started in 1990 and were developed through cooperation with organizations that include the US Space Agency, NASA, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. Looking ahead, the UAEREP is committed to advancing rain enhancement science through ongoing research and collaboration. “Since its inception, UAEREP has taken a keen interest in integrating technological advancements and innovations into its cloud-seeding projects. Recent initiatives involve the use of novel nanomaterials that have exhibited greater efficiency than the conventional materials in enhancing precipitation.” Scientists are also using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for atmospheric charge dispersal and cloud measurement tests, coupled with artificial intelligence trained using data from weather models.

Rain enhancement, more commonly known as cloud seeding, promises a viable and cost-effective way to supplement water supplies

The UAEREP’s research agenda has identified three key technical challenges: (1) the collation and analysis of data on cloud formations, (2) the selection and deployment of seeding materials; and (3) the process of identifying and tracking suitable clouds for seeding.

The rain enhancement program encourages research with grants of up to $1.5 million US dollars, distributed over three years. Last January the winners of its fifth cycle of awards were announced in a statement. They include a scientists from the Technology Innovation Institute (TII) for their project on laser-based rain triggering demonstrators with remote sensing technology; a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for their project regarding the identification of clouds microphysical seedability in an actionable manner, and lastly, researchers from Michigan Technological University for their work on laboratory and modelling studies of cloud susceptibility to hygroscopic seeding.

The immediate aim of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is to increase rainfall and boost freshwater supply in the country; however, in doing so, the intention is to generate results that could benefit other countries as well.

This awards cycle is a testament to the UAE’s commitment to bolstering water security both regionally and globally, particularly in the broader context of addressing climate change issues, as highlighted by its recent successful hosting of COP28”, said His Excellency Dr. Abdulla Al Mandous, Director General of NCM and President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Alya Al Mazroui, Director of UAEREP, highlighted the importance of science in building bridges of cooperation, encouraging the exchange of knowledge and innovation, and finding innovative solutions to pressing climate challenges, especially water scarcity. “The growing challenges we face regarding water scarcity require a collective effort that knows no borders”, he emphasized.

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