Especifically in the summer season months, life in Dubai can really feel like a denial of nature. The malls, the inns, even the swimming swimming pools are frosty. But the air exterior is baking, with temperatures above 40°C and humidity so thick it fogs glasses and seeps from air-conditioning vents.
The United Arab Emirates (uae), a seven-member federation of which Dubai is a component, desires to place a few of that humidity to make use of. The nation has one of many world’s keenest cloud-seeding programmes, flying some 200 missions a 12 months from an airfield in Abu Dhabi, the capital. Every week or two, planes zip into the clouds to attempt to squeeze out a bathe. Lately they’ve been joined by experimental drones: if nature won’t share rain of its personal accord, the uae hopes to jolt it into compliance.
Cloud-seeding has been practised for nearly a century. South-East Asian international locations use it to clear dry-season haze; ski resorts in America to assist carpet the slopes with snow. China tried it throughout the summer season Olympics in 2008. Officials needed to persuade clouds into casting out their contents earlier than they reached Beijing—and ruined the festivities.
In the early days planes would dump dry ice into clouds. Today they carry chemical compounds, normally silver iodide or different salts. They are supposed to entice water droplets, within the hope they turn into heavy sufficient to fall to earth as rain. Whether this works will not be clear. A research partly funded by America’s National Science Foundation discovered that cloud-seeding boosts snowfall underneath the suitable circumstances. Studies in America, Israel and elsewhere have been inconclusive.
The uae hopes it really works. One of the driest international locations on earth, it generally has lower than 100mm (4 inches) of rain a 12 months. There are occasional wet days in winter and temporary downpours in summer season that break the oppressive humidity. But nature doesn’t present sufficient water for a inhabitants of about 10m individuals that’s nonetheless rising. Most ingesting water comes from the ocean. So a lot in order that 14% of the world’s desalinated water is produced within the uae.
Climate change may provide a bit extra water from the heavens. Over the New Year weekend, elements of the uae logged as a lot as 142mm of rain, greater than a 12 months’s price, in simply three days. Locals noticed it as an auspicious begin to the 12 months: the Prophet Muhammad thought of rain a blessing.
Summer has additionally introduced uncommon climate, much less cheerfully. Fujairah, on the east coast, noticed a freak storm in July that flooded homes and washed away automobiles. Seven individuals died. Scientists say local weather change could have performed a task.
Still, even a rainier uae won’t be wet sufficient. Last 12 months the federal government began fidgeting with drones. Instead of dropping chemical payloads into clouds, they ship an electrical shock. The jolt, in concept, might trigger droplets to clump collectively: the identical consequence as old school cloud-seeding, however with out the chemical compounds.
The uae insists the chemical model works, even when different researchers are much less positive. For Dubai’s residents, nonetheless, the programme has turn into one thing of a working jest. A day on the seaside ruined by a freak storm will not be merely unhealthy luck; it’d benefit a grievance to the federal government. ■