Faced with the increasing frequency of heatwaves and diminishing water sources, scientists in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have taken matters into their own hands. They have managed to create torrential downpours using a fleet of drones.
Ras al Khaimah and other regions saw rainfall which was created artificially through a new take on the technology of cloud seeding.
Here is all you need to know about Dubai’s artificial rains.
What is Cloud Seeding?
Cloud seeding is a process in which certain changes are made in the weather which result in rain or snow. Cloud seeding is not a new technology, having been first successfully attempted in 1923 by W.D. Bancroft.
The most common way of seeing clouds is to introduce certain chemicals in and around already existing clouds. These chemicals increase the rate of condensation through chemical processes or by providing crystalline ice nuclei around which water droplets can form and accumulate.
These salts and chemicals can be introduced either through aeroplanes, rockets or even ground generators.
While the effectiveness of cloud seeding is somewhat contentious, the results are very obvious. Cloud seeding results in the formation of clouds that cause rainfall, or snowfall, where these clouds previously would not have been heavy or low enough to do so.
However, some scientists and environmental activists have also raised concerns over the use of chemicals and salts that may be harmful to the environment in the creation of clouds. Doubts remain over whether creating artificial precipitation in one area would affect nearby areas.
Experiments in UAE
Scientists from the meteorological department in the UAE used a new form of cloud seeding technology. Instead of relying on chemicals, the scientists used electrical charges. These electrical charges forced water droplets to combine into larger ones, which allowed the water droplets to hit the ground instead of evaporating.
The technology is also perfect for being tested in the UAE. Cloud seeding, as the name implies, requires the presence of clouds in order to create precipitation. While UAE is an arid country, moisture and evaporation from the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea create a heavy cloud cover over the country.
The electrical charges are delivered by a fleet of drones that fly up to the cloud cover and excite the water molecules present there. Over 126 cloud seeding flights were conducted by the UAE National Centre of Meteorology since the start of the year.
The technology is based on the same one that scientists from the University of Reading, UK, had studied and researched.
"Our project is about changing the balance of charges on the tiniest cloud droplets, a neglected aspect of clouds which could revolutionise our ability to manipulate rainfall in areas that need it most," said Professor Giles Harrison, of the University of Reading
Rain on Demand?
If successful, this technology presents a way for numerous water scare areas to essentially create rain on demand. New cloud seeding technology can potentially reduce water scarcity in numerous areas that do not receive adequate rainfall, preventing drought conditions and saving thousands of lives in the process.
The technology can also be used to create rain that would then replenish underground aquifers, lakes, rivers and other freshwater sources. Besides UAE, countries like India and China are already experimenting with other cloud seeding technologies for arid regions to prevent large scale droughts.
Faced with the increasing urgency of climate change, such technologies will continue to develop to help human civilisation adapt to the increased ecological pressures.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)