UAE to explore innovative rain-inducing concept with leading meteorologists

The UAE Research Programme 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 Programme for Rain Enhancement Science, and senior officials at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology, NCMS, are engaged in discussions with Prof. Giles Harrison, who specialises in Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, UK, and with Keri Nicoll, a NERC Independent Research Fellow at the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading. Harrison, who is also a Second Cycle awardee associated with the rain enhancement programme, will lead the research.

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 aircraft.

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.

Commenting on Professor Harrison's project, Dr. Abdullah Al Mandous, Director of the NCMS, said, "The success of the Emirates R&D programme 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."

Alya Al Mazroui said, "This project holds great promise to a water-stressed country like the UAE. The project links directly to the UAE Research Programme 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 centre of excellence for rain enhancement research."

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 Programme 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 ceilometer 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.

Launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE and overseen by the 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 programme is also a rallying platform that facilitates international cooperation through advancing research and innovation in the field of rain enhancement.

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