Home Tech No, the Dubai floods were not caused by cloud seeding

No, the Dubai floods were not caused by cloud seeding

0 comment
No, the Dubai floods were not caused by cloud seeding

Dubai is under water. Strong storms have caused Flash floods in the United Arab Emirates, leading to shocking scenes circulating on social media: cars abandoned on the side of the road, planes splashing on flooded runways. Hundreds of flights have been canceled at Dubai’s busy international airport and at least 18 people have died in neighboring Oman.

News reports and social media posts were quick to blame cloud seeding. The United Arab Emirates has a long-running program to try to squeeze more rain from the clouds passing over this normally arid region: They have a team of pilots who spray salt particles into passing storms to stimulate the formation of more water. . The floods were presented as a warning by some: This is what happens when you mess with nature. Even Bloomberg reported that cloud seeding had worsened flooding.

The truth is more complicated. I’ve spent the last few months reporting on cloud seeding in the UAE for an upcoming WIRED feature, and while it’s true that the UAE has been running cloud seeding missions this week (it conducts more than 300 a year) , it is an exaggeration to say that it was responsible for the floods. (In fact, as we prepared this story for publication Wednesday morning, the UAE National Meteorological Center he told CNBC had not planted any clouds before the storm hit on Tuesday).

There are a few reasons for this. First: Even the most optimistic assessments of cloud seeding say it can increase precipitation by up to 25 percent annually. In other words, it would have rained anyway, and if cloud seeding had had an impact, it would have been only a slight increase in the amount of precipitation that fell. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of cloud seeding in warm climates, and even if it works, cloud seeding can’t produce rain out of thin air, it can only enhance what’s already in the sky.

Secondly, planting operations tend to take place in the east of the country, far from more populated areas such as Dubai. This is largely due to air traffic restrictions, but means it was unlikely that any particles were still active when the storms reached Dubai. Most scientists I have spoken to say that the impact of cloud seeding has a very small, localized effect and is unlikely to cause flooding in other areas. But perhaps the best evidence that cloud seeding was not involved in these floods is the fact that it rained across the region. Oman did not sow clouds, but was even more affected by the floods, which caused numerous victims.

It’s exciting to point fingers at terrifying technology, but the real cause of the flooding is probably more banal: Dubai is comically ill-equipped to deal with the rains. The city has expanded rapidly in recent decades, with little attention in the past paid to infrastructure such as storm drains that could help it deal with a sudden influx of water. It is largely concrete and glass, and there is very little green space to absorb the rain. The result is chaos every time it rains; although, to be fair, most cities would struggle to cope with the amount of rain a year falls on 12 hours.

However, climate change may also be playing a role. As the planet warms, the region’s complex climate dynamics are changing in ways that can lead to more violent storms. Urban planners around the world are trying to make their cities “spongier” to help cope with flash floods and save more water for drier times of the year. Instead of using cloud seeding to turn the sky into a sponge, Dubai would be better off trying to turn the city into one.

You may also like