Leading Journal Showcases Achievements of UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science
The pioneering research and technology achievements of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) are featured in a peer-reviewed article published by the Nature Research journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.
Titled “Rethinking water security in a warming climate: rainfall enhancement as an innovative augmentation technique”, the article highlights the fact that rainfall enhancement has historically been overlooked as a key component of sustainability and climate change adaptation strategies.
It showcases current progress and future directions for rainfall enhancement applications based on NCM’s operational cloud seeding program and its grant-based international research and development ecosystem under UAEREP.
The UAE’s efforts in rainfall enhancement, as documented in the Nature paper, presents a significant opportunity to advance the field of rainfall enhancement as a viable contributor to address the growing impacts of climate change on water and food security, regionally and globally.
This opportunity is aligned with the UAE’s commitment to sustainability as evidenced by the country’s hosting of COP28.
This comprehensive article draws on valuable input from a range of distinguished contributors including His Excellency Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director General of NCM and President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Omar Al Yazeedi, Deputy Director General of NCM, and Alya Al Mazrouei, UAEREP Director.
Dr Steve Griffiths, Senior Vice-President, Research and Development and Professor of Practice, Khalifa University, is the paper’s corresponding author and Dr. Youssef Wehbe, UAEREP Program team member, the paper’s lead author.
His Excellency Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director General of NCM and President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said: "This article underscores the significance of the cutting-edge research work carried by NCM to support the UAE's efforts to achieve water security and contribute to mitigating the consequences of climate change on arid and semi-arid regions.
"Through such efforts, we aim to promote innovative solutions and foster international collaboration to address global water scarcity challenges."
Dr Steve Griffiths, Senior Vice-President, Research and Development and Professor of Practice, Khalifa University, said: "The UAEREP, which I’ve been involved with as a Strategic Direction Committee member since its inception, represents a pioneering model for addressing water security challenges in arid regions.
"Recognition of the importance of UAEREP’s impact and future trajectory by the high-impact journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science validates the program’s contributions to the field of rain enhancement. It further encourages the global community to explore innovative and sustainable solutions, such as rain enhancement, for ensuring water availability in water-stressed regions."
Alya Al Mazroui, Director of the UAEREP, said: "The remarkable technological and scientific advancements achieved by UAEREP continue to gain global recognition due to their significant potential for wider applications in countries facing similar water scarcity challenges.
"These advancements have not only positioned the UAE at the forefront of rain enhancement research, but have also inspired global interest in rain enhancement research as a viable and sustainable alternative to our conventional fresh-water sources."
The article references average seasonal precipitation increases of 5-25% from different international cloud seeding efforts based on the WMO Peer Review Report on Global Precipitation Enhancement Activities.
Using this benchmark range, corroborated by local radar-based studies over the UAE, the UAE's cloud seeding efforts are estimated to yield an additional 168-838 million cubic meters of rainfall annually. Adjusted for evaporation and soil retention, the harvestable volume of water from seeded rainfall ranges from 84-419 million cubic meters.
This represents a significant fraction of the approximately 6.7 billion cubic meters of rainfall that the UAE receives annually.
The article also revealed that cloud seeding missions managed by NCM can cost up to US$8,000 per flight hour. In 2020, a total of 390 flights were conducted, each averaging an hour in duration.
Considering the range of harvestable rainfall volumes achievable through seeding, the unit cost of harvestable seeded rainfall can be estimated to be between US$0.01 and US$0.04 per cubic meter, compared to the reported estimated desalinated water production cost of US$0.31 per cubic meter in the UAE, presenting a compelling cost advantage over desalination.
To advance the pivotal role of rainfall enhancement in achieving national and regional water security strategies, the article proposes three key areas for further research.
They include enhancing the targeted cloud quantity and precision (timing and location) of seeding missions; identifying optimal applications for rainfall enhancement and the requisite conditions; and deploying rainfall harvesting, water storage and transmission systems.
The article demonstrates that these key areas can be addressed progressively through interdisciplinary research and development.
As such, the UAEREP projects leverage the latest advancements in material science and nanotechnology, autonomous unmanned aerial systems, smart sensors, reverse-engineered thermal systems, and AI/machine learning tools.
In its efforts to foster global scientific collaboration, UAEREP actively shares its research findings through top-ranked peer-reviewed journals, conference proceedings and other public platforms.
To date, the program has published 93 articles and over 110 conference proceedings, with more than 1,456 citations in renowned scientific publications.