x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Abu Dhabi scientists discover cause of UAE storms

Scientists at the Center for Prototype Climate Modeling unit at the New York University Abu Dhabi believe they have discovered what caused the freak weather that hit the UAE last month

Roads and pavements across the UAE, such as this street in Sharjah, suffered heavy flooding last month. Antonie Robertson / The National
Roads and pavements across the UAE, such as this street in Sharjah, suffered heavy flooding last month. Antonie Robertson / The National

ABU DHABI // Scientists believe they have discovered the origins of the extreme weather that hit the UAE last month.

Heavy rain and winds battered the country in November, causing flooding, havoc on the roads and school closures. One man in Ras Al Khaimah even died when his car was swept away by floodwater.

Its causes have been investigated by scientists at the Centre for Prototype Climate Modelling at New York University Abu Dhabi.

The team’s leader, Dr Ajaya Ravindran, claimed that the last time the UAE witnessed similar weather in November was 10 years ago.

“Scientists at our centre are in the process of such an investigation,” Dr Ravindran said.

“In our recent work we have found that 2013 is marked by many global weather anomalies, such as unusual jet stream patterns, strong monsoons, heat waves, intense snowfall over US and Europe and last week’s rains here in the UAE.”

Even though they knew that the rainfall was caused by an atmospheric low pressure front that moved across the Middle East, as reported by the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology, they wanted to know what created this system – and research into world weather patterns provided them with an answer.

Unusually, a cyclone formed over the Mediterranean bringing destructive rain and flooding to the Italian island of Sardinia. This was followed by an anticyclone that pushed cold air towards the Arabian Gulf.

At the same time, there have been exceptionally heavy monsoons over India this year, leading to higher levels of moist, warm air over the Gulf.

When the cold weather system from the Mediterranean and the warm air from India collided, it triggered a low pressure area that swept through the region, dumping rain on Kuwait, Bahrain, eastern Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the UAE.

While this weather system was abnormal, Dr Ravindran said more research was needed before they could blame it on climate change.

“Something is happening this year, all around the world there is unusual weather,” he said. “We cannot link it to climate change at this point. If there is an increase in rainfall, then we can link it to climate change. We have to keep watching and see if frequencies are increasing.

“Whether the UAE will see more of this extreme weather is unknown, but being sandwiched between the tropics and mid-altitude, it is possible.”

Although the rain is over for now, weather forecasters have predicted that dense fog will continue to cover parts of the country on Thursday morning.

Visibility today was reduced to 50 metres in some areas of Abu Dhabi, including Liwa, and 100m in Dubai.

Police warned drivers to take extra care while driving in foggy conditions. Already, one man has died and hundreds have been injured in road accidents.

On Friday, forecasters say, wind changes will lead to an increase in temperatures and a decrease in humidity, clearing most of the fog.

A spokesman for the weather centre said there would be no chance of rain over the weekend, but there will be some clouds in the Northern Emirates.

osalem@thenational.ae