November 30, 2020

UAE to fund weather modification research

The UAE has launched an international prize for weather enhancement technology. The first grant of $5m was awarded to researchers from Germany, Japan and the UAE this month.

The desert country is one of the world’s largest per capita consumers of water and yet it receives less than 100mm of rainfall every year, a severe limitation on its burgeoning landscaping industry.

Over the next three years, Masataka Murakami of Nagoya University’s Institute for Space-Earth Environmental Research will lead a team deploying sensors and algorithms to identify clouds that are promising candidates for the seeding technique.

Meanwhile, a German team led by Professor Volker Wulfmeyer of the University of Hohenheim, will study how cloud formation is affected by winds and topography.

Linda Zou of the UAE’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology will be heading up research into the use of nanotechnology to increase condensation within clouds.

Masataka Murakami said: “There are many techniques to secure water resources but only precipitation enhancement can produce a lot of water for industrial use, irrigation etc cheaply.”

In this technique, flares loaded with particles of potassium chloride and sodium chloride (table salt) are fired into clouds to induce precipitation. On good days this can increase rainfall by 15%.

Sufian Khaled Farrah, meteorologist at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology said: “It is expensive but compared to desalination plants it is very, very cheap.”

Many experts are sceptical, however. Peter Gleick, a US water scientist and founder of Pacific Institute in California said: “It is really hard to wring moisture out of the atmosphere when it isn’t even there.”

Desalination was not a practical option either, he said: “They can make as much as they want from the Gulf – but that’s at a high cost.”

The only alternative was for the UAE to have a “serious conversation” about water usage. “They are in a really tough spot,” he said.

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