UAE Wants More Rain… So It’s Building a Mountain !
With just a few inches of rainfall a year, the country is taking matters into its own hands.
The United Arab Emirates wants to make it rain—literally—and it has an ambitious plan to do that: build a mountain !
The United Arab Emirates is certainly no stranger to ambitious mega-projects. Just take a look at the towering Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, or the Palm Jumeirah, the artificial archipelago in the shape of a palm tree that juts out into the sea near Dubai.
Even by the UAE’s standards, however, building a mountain would stand out as an ambitious plan. And perhaps what’s so remarkable about this plan is that despite its audacity, it would serve a sadly utilitarian purpose: to bring rain !
According to the Dubai-based publication Arabian Business, the UAE is in the early stages of evaluating how a man-made mountain could help maximize rainfall in the country, consulting with experts from the U.S.-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to study the idea. “What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be,” Roelof Bruintjes of NCAR told Arabian Business. “We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step.”
While the idea sounds a bit like science fiction, it’s based on a very real meteorological concept called “orographic precipitation.” When moist air rises up one side of a mountain, it cools and forms clouds. Those clouds then produce precipitation, leading to rainfall on the side of the mountain facing the wind. (The area on the other side of the mountain—called the “rain shadow”—receives very little rain as dry air descends.)
For a country that ranks as one of the driest on Earth, every drop counts. On average, the UAE sees just about three inches of rain a year, according to theAbu Dhabi-based newspaper The National. The lack of rainfall, combined with temperatures that can climb to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a high rate of water consumption, means that its natural water reserves will soon run dry. In places like Abu Dhabi, where the average person consumes 145 gallons of water per day—two to three times the world average—groundwater reserves are expected to be depleted within the next 50 years. That’s a problem not only for the nation’s urban water parks and ski slopes, but also for the country’s farmers in rural areas.
In response to this, for the past few years, there has been a campaign across the country to create more rainfall through artificially seeded clouds. Arabian Business recently reported that around $558,000 has been spent on 186 cloud seeding missions across the UAE last year, and the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science recently announced a $5 million research grant forteams studying the technology. So far, the campaign seems to have worked, with higher levels of rainfall than predicted. However, perhaps not everything has gone completely according to plan: A record rainfall in March, partially attributed to cloud seeding, included over 11 inches falling in less than 24 hours. That rainfall also created chaos in the country, with the heavy rains and winds resulting in flooding and canceled flights.
The UAE has spent $400,000 investigating the idea. Speaking to Arabian Business, NCAR’s Bruintjes acknowledged that the eventual cost of the project may be too much for the UAE.
So we shall stay tuned and check out how things going are going up 🙂