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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

UAE and Japan team up as rainmakers 

UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science and Japanese researchers look into the potential for cloud seeding in this country

The UAE and a Japanese team are working together to further develop cloud seeding understanding. Tobias Schwarz/AFP
The UAE and a Japanese team are working together to further develop cloud seeding understanding. Tobias Schwarz/AFP

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (RPRES) has launched a flight campaign by Japanese researchers to assess the micro physical and chemical properties of the clouds in addition to the potential for cloud seeding in the UAE.

The team is currently conducting field studies in the Al Ain region using an aircraft that travelled 12,000 kilometres over Asia and the Middle East from Nagoya to Al Ain.

Led by Professor Masataka Murakami, one of the programme’s first cycle awardees, the Japanese team is collaborating closely with scientists from the National Center of Meteorology (NCM), which manages the RPRES. The project is currently analysing the microphysical and chemical structures of clouds suitable for seeding and their occurrence frequency over the eastern mountain areas of the UAE, and investigating seeding effects through laboratory tests, aerial and ground-based measurements.

According to the UK non-profit CDP, droughts, water scarcity and stricter environmental regulations cost businesses globally a reported US$14 billion last year, up from $2.6bn in 2015.

“Every business in every sector needs water in some form or another,” said Morgan Gillespy, the head of water at CDP. “Addressing water risks is vital for business continuity, protecting the bottom-line and to enable an effective response to climate change.”

By collaborating and opening up its extensive resources, NCM is making every effort to ensure the successful completion of all six projects currently being carried out by the RPRES' awardees, said Abdulla Al Mandous, the director of the centre.

"In doing so, we are seeking to advance the scientific community’s understanding of rain enhancement and ultimately aiding the common international quest for water security.”

Consisting of 20 experienced scientists and an aircraft crew and support staff, Prof Murakami’s team has already been carrying out the geophysical mapping of seedable clouds in the UAE by utilising the comprehensive local meteorological data compiled by NCM scientists.

Building on this knowledge, the Japanese team has gathered additional information on vertical profiles of local temperature, humidity, cloud water and precipitation particles from ground-based measuring equipment including microwave radiometer and Doppler radar. The team is now using its own custom-designed aircraft fitted with advanced scientific instruments to carry out further experiments based on the previous field work. The aircraft flies daily to assess the properties of local clouds, the effect of seeding materials injected into the clouds and the changes in rain precipitation levels that may result.

The flight campaign is taking advantage of the more stable weather conditions prevalent in the summer season compared to the more changeable weather of the winter season, the NMC said.

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The centre has also provided one of its own Beechcraft King Air C90 aircraft to take additional measurements. "After the aircraft disperses hydroscopic seeding particles into suitable clouds, the Japanese aircraft measures the effectiveness of the particles," NMC said.

Alya Al Mazroui, the director of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, said: “Prof Murakami’s highly promising field project could do much to enhance our knowledge of local weather patterns and rainfall potential in the target region.

"The close coordination between the Japanese and NCM teams is a good example of the international collaboration that is essential to the opening of new horizons in the science and technology of rain enhancement. The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is thus demonstrating its continuing outstanding success at a global level in bringing together leading experts in this important research field.”

The work being carried out by the Japanese researchers and the NCM will add to scientific studies of the "seedability" of clouds, the development of optimal seeding methods and the evaluation of seeding effects. The researchers said they are confident that the results gathered in the field will validate advanced modelling techniques developed in laboratory experiments to enhance knowledge of seeding processes and their outcomes.

“Our project to better evaluate and ultimately improve the effectiveness of rain enhancement in the UAE and arid regions and beyond is built on the achievements of our previous research work carried out in Japan over several years," said Prof Murakami. "I am confident that the advancement of weather science and technologies that we are working on in collaboration with NCM and other international partners will improve cloud seeding efficiency and contribute to secure water resources.”

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Launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE in early 2015, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is an internationally-recognised initiative that offers a grant of US$ 5 million to be shared by up to five winning research proposals.

This year’s third cycle call for research proposals led to 201 pre-proposal submissions being received, representing 710 scientists and researchers affiliated to 316 institutions spread across 68 countries on five continents, according to NMC.

The work the programme is undertaking is an increasingly important area of economic concern for countries where rainfall is limited.

"We don't hear much about how water scarcity impacts where businesses locate," Will Sarni, who is director and practice leader in water strategy and sustainability at Deloitte Consulting, told The Guardian.

"Water-rich states will be able to lure manufacturing and agriculture away from water-scarce nations. That can lead to limits in economic growth."