Some areas of the United Arab Emirates are experiencing heavy rains for a second day, even though summer is usually a dry season with intense heat, local forecasters said.
Experts said the rains came after experiments with new technology to induce rainfall. Summers in the UAE are dry, often around 50 degrees Celsius during the day, and there is no precipitation. Downpours have occurred in different parts of the country, including the capital emirate.
In addition, precipitation is expected in Qatar, which is usually dry in the summer. Rains are forecast from Saturday until the middle of next week. It is noted that Qatar has no precipitation at all in summer and has had only a couple of rains since last fall.
In arid countries, authorities are actively looking for ways to induce precipitation. Since spring, the UAE has begun testing drones capable of inducing rain without chemicals – by means of electric charges.
British researchers have been tasked by the UAE to study ways to induce precipitation in the Persian Gulf using drones that emit electricity into the clouds.
The UAE has paid $1.4 million to the British team to test how an electric charge can expand and combine water droplets, turning them into precipitation.
This is a new move to promote “cloud seeding” in a country that uses planes dropping chemicals into clouds to increase rainfall by 30 percent, according to its own data.
About 80 percent of the UAE’s food is imported, raising concerns about the sustainability of the oil-rich country.
But researchers at the University of Reading hope to reverse the rainfall trend by using drones to deliver pulses of charged ions into the atmosphere.
They believe that using low-power electrical discharges on cloud droplets could stimulate the formation of raindrops.
Many countries use alternative methods to induce rain, including atmospheric spraying of salt compounds, silver iodide and dry ice.
China hit the headlines before the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics for influencing the weather with such methods.
Alya Al-Mazroui, director of the UAE’s rain enhancement science research program, said remotely-controlled drones were developed in Britain.
“Equipped with payloads in the form of electrical charge extraction devices and specialized sensors, these drones will fly at low altitudes and transfer an electrical charge to air molecules, which should facilitate rainfall,” she said.
Dr. Keri Nicholl, an assistant professor at the University of Reading involved in the project, said: “If you radiate a charge inside a cloud, very quickly that charge will be collected by water droplets. Our theory and modeling work has shown that charging these little droplets can increase the probability that they will coalesce under electrostatic forces and eventually help them turn into raindrops.”
With an average rainfall of only 100 mm a year, the UAE is investing heavily in this new research to increase freshwater supplies.
Al-Mazroui said it is too early to predict the effectiveness of the study, which is one of nine “rain enhancement” projects that received $15 million in funding from the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs in 2017.