Dubai submerged: unprecedented flooding hits as cloud seeding scrutiny intensifies

Already classified as the heaviest rains in the last 75 years, they blocked the center of the major United Arab Emirates city and its airport. The city recorded more than 142 mm of rain in one day, about the amount expected in a year and a half

The United Arab Emirates, host of last year’s UN COP28 climate talks, experienced severe rainfall that flooded major highways and disrupted flights at Dubai International Airport, described by the government as the heaviest precipitation in the last 75 years.

Dubai is now completely submerged under water: the torrential rain over the past few hours has devastated the city, forcing the closure of the international airport and diversion of flights. Intense storms also struck nearby Oman, where severe flooding resulted in the deaths of 18 people.

Just a month ago, Dubai was dealing with the aftermath of cloud seeding, a practice that triggered torrential rains and widespread flooding throughout the city.

Rain began on Monday night, and by Tuesday evening, Dubai had received more than 142 mm of rain, typically the average amount received over a year and a half. The annual average rainfall at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest hub for international travel, is 94.7 millimeters. Some inland areas of the UAE recorded over 80 mm of rain in the 24 hours up to 8 AM Tuesday, nearing the annual average of about 100 mm.

Does cloud seeding play a role?

In the UAE, the annual rainfall averages less than 200 millimeters. With summer temperatures rising to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, water resources are under immense pressure, exacerbated by heavy reliance on underground water sources.

To combat this issue, the UAE has pioneered innovative solutions, one of which is creating artificial rain through cloud seeding, a form of weather modification intended to enhance precipitation.

But can it exacerbate weather conditions? Many believe it can.

Ahmed Habib, a meteorologist at NCM, told Bloomberg that cloud seeding planes conducted seven missions in the two days prior to these heavy showers. This has led some to blame this once-in-a-century event on the weather modification technique.

Although it might have been partially responsible, the extreme atmospheric conditions did the rest. Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli pointed out that there was an excessive amount of desert dust suspended in the air when the rain bomb moved over Dubai. That dust also acts as a cloud seeder, leading him to question whether the human-operated seeding could really be blamed for the deluge.

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