x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE to turn to scientists to help it increase rainfall

Plans are under way to gather international meteorologists in Abu Dhabi later this year to consider how it can make the most of its efforts at cloud-seeding.

DUBAI // Plans are under way to gather international meteorologists in the capital later this year to consider how it can make the most of its efforts at cloud-seeding.

"We want to invite 20 or 30 of the top scientists in this field and hold a workshop, to hear how we can improve rainfall," said Omar Alyazeedi, the director of research and development at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology. "We are working on this now."

The UAE has had an active cloud seeding project since 2001. The NCMS operates a small jet that makes regular cloud-seeding flights.

Cloud-seeding works by firing salt particles into a rain cloud. The particles act as "seeds", around which water coalesces into raindrops.

Contrary to popular belief, cloud seeding does not cause rain - but can increase it by up to 20 per cent.

The project may have played a role in increasing rainfall, particularly over the past week, said Mr Alyazeedi. There has been recent heavy rain in Masafi and the Northern Emirates. "If you are asking if we increased rainfall, then the answer is yes of course," he said. "But by how much, this is the difficult question."

Verification has haunted cloud-seeding since it was conceived in the 1950s, as it fundamentally lacks a scientific "control" - it is impossible to tell whether rainfall would have been any less had there been no cloud-seeding.

The NCMS announced in June that it was accepting ideas on how to improve either the practice or verifiability of cloud seeding.

So far, the response has been minimal. However, the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado - a long-term partner of the NCMS - is developing a supercomputer-based numerical model that may eventually prove whether cloud seeding works.

"Once we are able to simulate nature correctly, this will help us to have a baseline with which to evaluate the effects of seeding," Roelof Bruintjes, a meteorologist with NCAR, said last month.

mcroucher@thenational.ae