After cloud seeding for rain… UAE aims at producing snow

Summer is coming and so may be the rains... so watch out

Courtesy: YouTube

ABU DHABI 25 April 2017:  After successfully inducing rain through cloud seeding, the UAE ambitiously aims to make it snow in the desert country.

Further projects commencing this year will investigate ice production processes in cumulus clouds and the role of atmospheric aerosols in precipitation enhancement, according to the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS).

“The results achieved so far demonstrate the Program’s position as a global focal point for researching and networking, and help consolidate Abu Dhabi’s and the UAE’s status as world leaders in this scientific field,” it said in a statement.

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is collaborating with a team of leading meteorologists to develop a potentially ground-breaking technology revolving around the ‘electrical seeding’ of clouds, a theoretical concept that studies the effect of electrical charges on rain-bearing clouds.

Alya Al Mazroui, Manager of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, and senior officials at the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), are engaged in ongoing discussions with Prof. Giles Harrison, who specializes in Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, and with Keri Nicoll, a NERC Independent Research Fellow at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading.

Prof. Giles Harrison, who is also a Second Cycle awardee associated with the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, will lead the research.

Scientific Approach

The team is set to examine the electrical properties of clouds through a combination of theoretical and experimental work. As a first step, they will model the growth of charged drops to raindrops – even when the clouds are not charged – to the extent that leads to thunderstorms. Secondly, they will attempt to measure and modify the charges present in clouds using balloons and aircrafts.

An innovative aspect is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to artificially modify the electrical properties of the clouds. A promising attribute of the electrical seeding approach is that it leaves no local environmental residues, as the UAVs are electrically powered and hence pollution-free.

Following a series of visits, the Jebel Jais, Al Ain Airport, Al Ain radar station, Jebel Hafeet and Al Malaiha sites have been identified as potential sites for equipment installation and ongoing atmospheric monitoring. The collaboration also covers the project’s logistical requirements and arrangements for data sharing.

“The success of the Emirates R&D program is evident at its third session, which has been demonstrated by the significant increase in the number of participating countries and research. A strong indicator of the importance of encouraging innovation and sharing knowledge and expertise through fruitful international partnerships,” said Dr. Abdullah Al Mandous, Director of the National Center for Meteorology and Seismology.

Water-stressed UAE

Alya Al Mazroui said: “This project holds great promise to a water-stressed country like the UAE. Moreover, the project links directly to the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s aim of providing real solutions to the challenges of water scarcity. We look forward to supporting the professor’s innovative work through our technical resources and resident expertise. We are also confident that such projects will reaffirm the status of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as an international center of excellence for rain enhancement research.”

For his part, Prof. Harrison said: “An analysis of the potential of electrical charges to enhance rainfall could offer new techniques for boosting precipitation levels. The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is playing a unique role in facilitating the growth of productive international scientific networks while ensuring that researchers have access to the materials, equipment and data that they need.”

Once suitable sites have been selected, Prof. Harrison’s team anticipates installing equipment including a laser-equipped ciliometer along with other instruments later in 2017. Following the creation of the field sites and the gathering of initial results, the team will make weather soundings with balloons equipped with enhanced measurement technology followed up by further measurements and, potentially, delivery activities with UAVs.

$5m Grant

Launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE and overseen by the UAE National Center of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science offers US$5 million in grant assistance to encourage scientists and researchers to explore new horizons in developing rain enhancement science and technology. The Program is also a rallying platform that facilitates international cooperation through advancing research and innovation in the field of rain enhancement.

Due to its success in creating a cluster of leading experts in the field, the program’s first cycle awardees are already producing ground-breaking work on precipitation enhancement in arid and semi-arid regions based on algorithms, the use of nanotechnology to accelerate water condensation, and cloud seeding optimization based on the study of convergence zones and land cover modification to enhance precipitation.

The Program is set to move from strength to strength in facilitating the active knowledge transfers needed to ensure sustainable development and economic growth in those regions of the world that are most vulnerable to aridity and water shortages.

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By Sheena Amos