Dubai Creates Fake Rain Using Drones to Battle 122 Degree Heat

Scientists in the United Arab Emirates are working towards new methods of weather manipulation in an attempt to bring increased rainfall to the desert country—and so far, it appears the efforts have been successful.

The cloud seeding operation, which uses electrical charges to prompt rainfall, speaks to the growing interest globally in rainmaking technologies as an avenue for potentially mitigating drought.

According to The Independent, the cloud seeding method employed in Dubai relies on drone technology. The drones release an electrical charge into clouds, prompting them to coalesce and create rain. The technology is reportedly favored compared to other forms of cloud seeding because it uses electricity to generate rain rather than chemicals.

The Middle Eastern country receives an average of four inches of rain per year and summer temperatures that routinely surpass 120 degrees, reported the news outlet. Additionally, its sinking water table—an essential source of fresh water—poses a serious threat. As a result, in 2017, the UAE invested a total of $15 million across nine projects hoping to increase rainfall.

Dubai Skyline at Night
Scientists in the United Arab Emirates have turned to using drones to create rain. Pictured, the Dubai skyline at night, January 19, 2015. Rustam Azmi/Getty Images

So far, the investment appears to be paying off: according to reports from the country's National Center of Meteorology (NCM), cloud seeding contributed to the heavy rainfall seen across the country earlier this month. According to Gulf Today, both the NCM and Abu Dhabi Police issued warnings to the public, urging caution in the wake of poor visibility and driving conditions.

Gulf Today also reported that, since the beginning of 2021, the NCM has conducted 126 instances of cloud seeding.

These types of weather-manipulation attempts are not limited to the UAE: according to a March report, published by The Guardian, several U.S. states are looking into cloud seeding as a way to combat severe drought conditions.

The method employed in the U.S., however, relies on a slightly different technology, in which drones add small amounts of silver iodine to clouds. The particles prompt water droplets to form, thus potentially increasing rainfall.

Research into cloud seeding dates back to the 1940s—however, it's only in recent years that the technology has shown to be effective.

However, it's important to note that while cloud seeding may be beneficial, it will not address the root causes of drought, nor is it a foolproof method.

As University of Colorado researcher Katja Friedrich explained to The Guardian: "It needs to be part of a broader water plan that involves conserving water efficiently, we can't just focus on one thing. Also, there is a question whether you will be able to do it in a changing climate—you need cold temperatures and once it gets too warm you aren't able to do the cloud seeding."

The Scientific American reports that "at least eight states" across the western US are involved in current cloud seeding operations, with the majority of the work taking place in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Also participating are Nevada, California, New Mexico, and Arizona.