May 22, 2024

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No, the Dubai floods were not caused by cloud seeding

No, the Dubai floods were not caused by cloud seeding

Dubai underwater. Caused severe storms Flash floods All over the UAE, sending shocking scenes on social media: cars abandoned on the side of the road, planes making their way across flooded runways. Hundreds of flights were canceled at Dubai's busy International Airport, and at least 18 people died in neighboring Amman.

News reports and social media posts were quick to blame cloud seeding. The UAE has a long-term program to try to extract more rain from the clouds that pass over the normally arid region, and has a team of pilots who sprinkle salt particles in passing storms to encourage more water to form. Floods have been positioned as a cautionary tale before some: This is what happens when you mess with nature. until Bloomberg It was reported that cloud seeding exacerbated flooding.

The truth is more complex. I've spent the past few months reporting on cloud seeding in the UAE for an upcoming WIRED feature, and although the UAE has been carrying out cloud seeding missions this week — it does more than 300 a year — it's an exaggeration Saying it is responsible for the floods. (In fact, as we were preparing this story for publication on Wednesday morning, the National Center of Meteorology in the United Arab Emirates He told CNBC No clouds had developed before the storm hit on Tuesday.)

There are several reasons for this. First, even the most optimistic assessment of cloud seeding says it could increase precipitation by a maximum of 25 percent per year. In other words, it would have rained anyway, and if cloud seeding had an effect, it would only slightly increase the amount of rain that fell. The jury is still out on how effective cloud seeding will be in warm climates, and even if it works, cloud seeding cannot produce rain from thin air, it can only enhance what is already in the sky.

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Second, sowing operations tend to take place in the east of the country, away from more densely populated areas such as Dubai. This is largely due to air traffic restrictions, but means it is unlikely that any seed particles were still active by the time the storms reached Dubai. Most scientists I've spoken to say the cloud seeding effect has a very small local 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 undertake any cloud seeding, but was hit harder by the floods, with a number of casualties.

It's exciting to point the finger at scary technology, but the real cause of the floods is likely more trivial: Dubai is farcically ill-equipped to handle the rainfall. The city has expanded rapidly over the past few decades, with little attention paid in the past to infrastructure such as storm drains that could help it handle sudden influxes of water. It is made largely of concrete and glass, and there is very little green space to absorb rainfall. The result is chaos whenever it rains – although to be fair, most cities would have a hard time coping with a year's worth of rainfall. 12 hours.

However, climate change may also play a role. As the planet warms, the region's complex weather dynamics are shifting and changing in ways that could lead to more violent storms. City planners around the world are trying to make their cities “squishier” to help deal with flash floods and provide more water for drier parts 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.

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