The unusual artificial rains in the United Arab Emirates

To alleviate the scorching temperatures of the last few weeks, which have approached 50 degrees several times, the UAE government has artificially generated or boosted intense rains that have even flooded some roads, creating some problems for motorists. To favor these precipitations some techniques have been used cloud seeding, through which particular methods or chemical agents are used that interact with the clouds to stimulate the fall of rain or increase its quantity.

The United Arab Emirates is one of the least rainy countries in the world and since the 1990s the government has invested the equivalent of tens of millions of euros to develop this type of techniques.

The techniques of cloud seeding consist in “sowing” (seeding, in fact) the clouds with jets of silver iodide or dry ice (carbon dioxide in the solid state) that are fired from special planes at a certain altitude: in the right conditions and with the right humidity levels, these chemical agents favor condensation and therefore cause precipitation or make it more abundant.

These methods have long been used in various countries including the United States and China: they not only serve to increase rainfall, for example to facilitate agriculture, but also to try to reduce pollution and have clearer skies, as had happened. on the occasion of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In the United Arab Emirates, the operations are managed by the National Meteorological Center, which among other things has the task of tracking down the most promising clouds to be treated with these methods.

Last week the National Meteorological Center of the Emirates released on social networks some videos of the torrential rains that were favored through the cloud seeding: images that are in stark contrast to the usual climate of the country, where 10 centimeters of rain fall per year.

Another video also shared by the National Meteorological Center shows a torrent of water making a road impassable for several motorists.

In 2017 alone, the government invested the equivalent of € 12.6 million in nine different experimental projects, such as the one led by a team of researchers from the University of Reading (UK), which uses drones to fire electric shocks into clouds. to promote rainfall.

Come he had explained to BBC a few months ago Professor Marteen Ambaum, who worked on the Reading project, the plan is to use electricity to “convince the water droplets to join and remain cohesive” to form rain: a bit like what happens sometimes to dry hair combed with a brush due to static electricity, Ambaum said.

According to available data, between 180 and 245 flights per year have been performed in the United Arab Emirates in recent years for cloud seeding. On Sunday the news site Gulf Today had written that since the beginning of 2021 the National Meteorological Center had managed at least 126 operations, including at least 14 over the previous five or six days.

– Read also: How China wants to control the weather

For now the projects of cloud seeding in the Emirates they are having some success, but several scientists doubt that these techniques can have a significant impact on rainfall, and certainly not without risk or excessive cost. Some studies cited byIndependent have shown that the cloud seeding can increase rainfall production by 5 to 70 percent, depending on cloud conditions; other quotes yes ViceInstead, they have shown that certain components contained in the chemicals used to sow clouds can be toxic to aquatic organisms, for example. At the same time, it is very difficult to understand whether the clouds that have been sown would have behaved differently without human intervention.

Anyway, how He said a The National Omar Aly Azeedi, an expert at the National Meteorological Center, the biggest problem is that it is not possible to determine the chances of success of an operation and to understand which clouds will produce the most rain or how much rain will fall a priori. For this, in addition to financing various projects of cloud seeding, the government is also investing in various facilities and techniques to preserve and treat rainwater that falls without interventions.

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