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‘Apocalyptic’ Dubai Floods: Artificial Rain or Climate Change?

By Orgesta Tolaj


19 April 2024

Dubai Floods

© Science girl & dxbmaven / X

The UAE has been at the forefront of innovative weather control methods, such as cloud seeding, to enhance rainfall in the arid desert region. However, as extreme weather events become more frequent, it is important to examine the role of human interventions versus natural climate variability in causing such incidents. Recently, Dubai experienced unexpected floods that left many questioning the cause. But, was it artificial rain from the UAE’s cloud seeding program, or is it a result of climate change? And what is going on with the UAE’s historic rain?

What Happened in Dubai?

The UAE’s historic rain caused record-breaking rainfall within hours. The downpour flooded major highways and Dubai’s international airport. The state-run WAM news agency labeled it a historic weather event, surpassing any recorded since data collection began in 1949, predating the nation’s oil discovery.

Starting late Monday, rain soaked Dubai, accumulating about 20 millimeters (0.79 inches) by Tuesday morning. The storms intensified around 9 a.m. local time, persisting throughout the day and bringing more rain and hail. By Tuesday’s end, over 142 millimeters (5.59 inches) had fallen in 24 hours. This far exceeded the annual average of 94.7 millimeters (3.73 inches) at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel and a hub for Emirates Airlines.

© dxbmaven / X

At Dubai International Airport, standing water covered taxiways, affecting aircraft landings. Arrivals were halted Tuesday night, and passengers faced difficulties reaching terminals due to floodwater on surrounding roads.

Why Did Dubai Experience Floods?

The UAE’s historic rain is linked to a larger storm system moving through the Arabian Peninsula and across the Gulf of Oman, affecting neighboring Oman and southeastern Iran. Climate scientist Colin McCarthy attributes the downpours to intense thunderstorms forming over the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Some experts also connect the rains to climate change.

dubai floods
© WxNB_ / X

Climate scientist Friederike Otto stated that human-caused climate change likely intensified the heavy rain in Oman and Dubai. Some meteorologists and climate specialists suggest that cloud seeding might have contributed to the heavy rainfall, but others point out that the storm carried a significant amount of dust, which can also enhance rainfall by acting as condensation nuclei.

But, What Is Cloud Seeding?

Since the 2000s, the UAE has conducted cloud seeding operations to tackle water security concerns, despite the risk of flooding due to inadequate drainage in some areas. The National Center of Meteorology deployed seeding planes from Al Ain airport on Monday and Tuesday to capitalize on convective cloud formations. This method involves injecting chemicals and tiny particles, often natural salts like potassium chloride, into the atmosphere to stimulate rainfall.

UAE historic rain
© aviationbrk / X

Specialist meteorologist Ahmed Habib mentioned that the National Center of Meteorology dispatched seeding planes from Al Ain airport on Monday and Tuesday to utilize convective cloud formations. This technique involves injecting chemicals and tiny particles, often salt like potassium chloride, into the atmosphere to induce more rainfall. The method includes launching salt flares or other materials into clouds from aircraft wings to enhance rain production.

How Did Climate Change Affect the Dubai Floods?

The UAE’s extensive coastline, with a majority of its population and infrastructure located close to the sea, faces significant risks from rising sea levels. Reports suggest the nation could lose up to 6% of its developed coastline by the end of the century. Additionally, the UAE has experienced coral bleaching events due to seawater temperature anomalies in the past. Global warming exacerbates water scarcity issues, leading to a greater disparity between water demand and availability, which may result in both flooding and drought.

Dubai Floods and UAE historic rain
© Christoph Schulz / Unsplash

Agricultural productivity is also threatened by higher temperatures, increased pests, and water salinity. Moreover, global warming amplifies the need for air conditioning, exacerbating pollution concerns in a country already grappling with high carbon emissions.

Why do you think the Dubai floods happened?

You might also want to read: Dubai Plans on Building an Underwater Train to India

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!