Some Blame Weather Modification for Dubai Downpour

But experts say record rainfall in UAE was more likely spurred by climate change, not cloud seeding
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2024 4:13 PM CDT
Experts: Downpour in Dubai From Climate Change, Not Seeding
A tanker truck sits abandoned in floodwaters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

Dubai's rare epic rainfall this week sparked headlines, jaw-dropping videos, and now, questions on weather modification. The United Arab Emirates' largest city received nearly 6 inches of rain over a 24-hour period Monday into Tuesday—for context, Dubai International Airport usually sees less than 4 inches over an entire year, on average.

  • Deaths: On Friday, officials said at least three people have died in the UAE as a result of the severe weather, per the AP. The Philippines' Department of Migrant Workers has reported that two women died in their vehicle from suffocation during the flooding, while a man is said to have perished after his vehicle plummeted into a sinkhole. The death toll may be even higher; the UAE has yet to release its own figures on any injuries or fatalities.
  • Oman: The UAE's neighbor on the Arabian Peninsula also took a hard hit from the weather, with at least 20 deaths recorded, per Reuters.

  • Cloud seeding: CNN notes that inquiries are now popping up on whether the downpour was linked to the UAE's cloud seeding program, which involves flying planes through clouds and infusing them with tiny chemical particles to induce precipitation.
  • Doubts: Per the news outlet, it's hard to quantify the effect that cloud seeding has on rainfall. Experts also tell the AP that the weather systems that caused this thunderstorm were known well in advance, and that cloud seeding on its own wouldn't have caused such flooding. The UAE's meteorology agency also tells Reuters there were no cloud seeding procedures before the storm, while CNN also points out that heavy rain fell in places not near cloud seeding efforts.
  • The science: Cloud seeding also doesn't create precipitation out of thin air, which is physically impossible. The procedure merely expedites the condensing and falling of water that already exists in the sky.
  • Climate change: That's what experts are pointing to instead for the unusual UAE rain event. "Rainfall from thunderstorms ... sees a particular strong increase with warming," a climate professor at the Netherlands' Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam tells Reuters. "This is because convection, which is the strong updraft in thunderstorms, strengthens in a warmer world."
  • More of the same? CNN notes that extreme rainfall incidents like this are likely to increase around the world if global warming does, allowing the atmosphere "to soak up more moisture like a towel and to ring it out as flooding rainfall."
(More Dubai stories.)

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