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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

16 cloud-seeding operations flew last weekend, NCM confirms

The operations coincided with unstable weather, but direct relationship to conditions unproven

A cloud-seeding plane flies over Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology
A cloud-seeding plane flies over Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology

Sixteen cloud-seeding missions were carried out last weekend, from Friday to Monday, the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) has confirmed.

So far, 242 seeding missions have been carried out this year, which is up from 177 last year, the NCM also told The National.

The 16 missions coincided with a period of unstable weather that hit the country from December 15.

“The total number of flights for December 15, 16, 17 and 18 was 16 flights,” said Ahmad Al Kamali, weather forecaster at the NCM on Thursday.

The highest amount of rain that fell over the four-day period was 137mm, recorded at Fujairah Port. The second-highest was 126.2mm at Dhudna in Fujairah town; followed by 125.6mm at Al Foah in Al Ain and then 107.6mm at Fujairah Airport.

Fujairah was particularly badly hit by the weather during the period, with flash-flooding forcing some families out of their homes and into emergency accommodation.

But the NCM said the bad weather was not unprecedented for the country.

“The rainfall we experienced [last week] is not unusual. In the past, we have had even more unstable weather,” said Mr Al Kamali.

The UAE’s cloud-seeding operation is based in Al Ain and when the NCM spot convective clouds through radar, planes are dispatched to seed them.

Flares of salt crystals are then fired into the updraft of selected clouds in the hope that it will trigger more rainfall.

The idea is that water vapour condenses around the salt, crystallises to form ice and then falls as rain.

The UAE’s cloud-seeding programme began in the 1990s and seeding planes fly throughout the year, not just during times of unstable conditions; however, despite some reports, seeding is not an exact science and its relationship to how much rain fell is extremely difficult to quantify.

Cloud seeding even takes place during the summer months.

“We seed in the summer because we have rain in the eastern parts of the country due to the Indian monsoon areas of low pressure. We have a lot of cloud seeding operations during that time,” said Mr Al Kamali.

According to the NCM, only natural salts and no harmful chemicals are used in the seeding operations.

The UAE has a very low rate of rainfall a year and groundwater supplies are being depleted.

To address the challenge of water security, the UAE established the Research Programme for Rain Enhancement in 2015. It offers a yearly US$5 million (Dh18m) grant to be shared by five winning scientific proposals.

The winners of this year’s grant will be announced in January.

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Read more:

Ten cloud-seeding operations since Saturday as rain lashes the country

Proposals pour in for UAE's $5 million rain enhancement programme