People in the UK are used to getting more than enough rainfall, and moaning about it whenever they get the chance, but that’s not the case for the United Arab Emirates where they only get a few inches a year. And they want more, which is why the UAE is taking matters into their own hands. They plan to build an artificial mountain to create more rain, and even though it might sound like something from science fiction, it’s based on fact.
RESEARCH HAS BEGUN
The UAE has given around £275,000 to the US-based National Center for Atmospheric Research to investigate how the creation of a man-made mountain could influence the weather, and according to the news site Arabian Business, researchers are in the ‘detailed modelling study’ stage of the ambitious project.
It’s actually a feasible idea and one based on the meteorological theory of orographic precipitation; which is when moist air ascends up one side of a mountain and cools to form clouds that produce rain. This mainly falls on the wind-facing side of the mountain, as the other ‘rain shadow’ side receives little of the wet stuff because dry air descends.
A COSTLY ENDEAVOUR
The investment is only the beginning and no one knows for sure how much the financial outlay could cost the country. To put it into perspective, consider this: in 2011, the Netherlands caused a stir by drawing up plans for a man-made mountain to attract tourists and generate revenue.
This came after a Dutch journalist bemoaned the lack of local mountains for winter sports, and at the time, estimates of around 48 to 295 billion pounds were being talked about to create the attraction – which tells you the UAE better have deep pockets.
The federation already has a yearly expenditure of around £380,000 to enrich clouds with silver iodide, and in so doing increase precipitation, so you never know.
WILL IT WORK?
The effectiveness of cloud-seeding projects remains controversial, and researchers are unclear on whether it is actually effective. Nevertheless, the UAE and other countries continue to set up this type of weather modification.
For example, China fired more than 1,000 dispersal rockets to blow away rain clouds and make sure the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 went off without a hitch. It seemed to work, but whether or not that was because Mother Nature decided she wanted to watch the four-hour extravaganza without rain is up for debate.
THE NEED IS REAL
Yet for all the scepticism surrounding the concept of weather modification, the background to the plan is serious. The UAE is amongst the driest countries on earth with roughly three inches of rainfall a year. This combined with high temperatures of sometimes more than 38 Celsius, and a high rate of water consumption, means groundwater could be exhausted within the next 50 years.
The conservation of water has been high on the government’s agenda, including a cut in agricultural water usage and measures to encourage its people to ration their use, but a lasting solution is needed.
Which makes the notion of a man-made mountain to create more rainfall less of an extravagant endeavour, and more reasonable by the year.