Dubai Rain 2024: Cloud Seeding or Natural Disaster?

Dubai Rain 2024: Cloud Seeding or Natural Disaster?

In the middle of the Arabian Peninsula lies the UAE, a place where it hardly ever rains. But recently, they experienced a huge amount of rain like never before. In the cold winter months, a big thunderstorm happened on Monday (April 15), late at night, bringing the most rain the United Arab Emirates has ever seen. This heavy rain caused a lot of problems, including taking one life, damaging homes and businesses, and stopping flights in Dubai.

The state-run WAM news agency called it "a historic weather event." This rain broke all records going back to 1949, which is even before the UAE was formed in 1971.

This piece looks into this unusual event, how the UAE ended up with so much unexpected rain, and asks if climate change might be causing this unusual weather.

What Exactly Happened in Dubai?

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates was drying off after experiencing the heaviest rain it has ever recorded. Even though there was still flooding on some big roads and in communities, Dubai's main airport started allowing more flights. Dubai International Airport, which sees the most international travelers in the world, started letting airlines use Terminal 1 again. Emirates, a major airline for long-distance flights, also started letting passengers come to Terminal 3, where they usually operate from.

Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airports, said in an interview that the airport would need at least another day to get back to its normal schedule. In one area of Dubai, floodwater was still rising on Thursday, reaching up to 1 meter (3 feet) deep, and officials were trying hard to remove the water.

Griffiths mentioned that they were worried when they saw the storm coming because they knew it could cause a lot of damage, and it did. To remove water from the area, the airport had to use 22 tankers with pumps. Griffiths also mentioned that the areas planes taxi on got flooded, but the runways where planes take off and land were okay and didn't get flooded. There was also a video online showing a FlyDubai plane landing and water spraying out because of the reverse thrust, which got a lot of attention.

“It seems like a big deal, but it's not really,” said Griffiths. Emirates, which had problems since the storm on Tuesday, stopped people from flying out of the UAE from checking in as they were trying to help passengers who had connecting flights. Pilots and crew members also found it difficult to get to the airport because the roads were flooded.

However, on Thursday, Emirates allowed passengers to enter the airport again. This led to about 2,000 people coming into Terminal 3 and caused long lines, according to Griffiths.

Some people who got to the airport had to wait for a very long time to get their luggage. A few of them decided to just leave and go back home or find a hotel to stay in.

The UAE, a country in the Arabian Peninsula run by a family in a strict way, usually doesn't get much rain because it's mostly desert. But, a huge storm that weather experts had been talking about for days hit the seven areas of the country.

By the end of Tuesday, Dubai got soaked with more than 142 millimeters (5.59 inches) of rain in 24 hours. Usually, Dubai gets 94.7 millimeters (3.73 inches) of rain in a whole year at the Dubai International Airport. Other places in the country got even more rain.

At the same time, there were serious floods in Oman, the country next to the UAE. On Thursday, the authorities said that at least 21 people had died because of the storms.

On Tuesday, the drainage systems in the UAE couldn't handle the heavy rain, causing floods in neighborhoods, business areas, and parts of the big road called Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. The WAM news agency said this rain was the most since they started keeping records in 1949. The UAE, a country in the Arabian Peninsula, usually doesn't get much rain because it's mostly desert. But, a big storm that was predicted hit the country, affecting all seven areas called sheikhdoms.

The leader of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan from Abu Dhabi, said late on Wednesday that they would quickly check the country's infrastructure to reduce the damage.

By Thursday, people were walking through floodwater mixed with oil to get to cars they left behind to see if they could still start. Trucks with big vacuums started cleaning some flooded areas outside Dubai's main part. Schools are closed until next week.

Authorities haven't given information about the overall damage or injuries from the floods that killed at least one person.

But, in at least one place, things got worse on Thursday because of the rain. In Mudon, a place built by Dubai Properties, one area got flooded up to 1 meter deep. Civil defense workers tried to remove the water, but it was hard as people walked through the floodwater.

People living in Mudon, who talked to the AP without giving their names because speaking up can get you in trouble in the UAE, said they gathered almost $2,000 to get a water tanker to their area on Wednesday. They said the developers didn't help them before this, even though they called and emailed for help. They also mentioned that a nearby sewage plant broke down, making the flooding worse.

“One of the homeowners said it was hard to believe how bad it was,” as workers from the civil defense moved through the water to give out bottled water.

Dubai Holding, which owns Dubai Properties, didn't answer questions. This company is part of what U.S. diplomats call “Dubai Inc.” - all the properties controlled by Dubai's rulers.

The flooding made people think that the UAE's use of cloud seeding — flying planes through clouds to make it rain — might have made the floods worse. But experts say the storm was predicted beforehand and cloud seeding by itself wouldn't cause such flooding.

Scientists also say climate change is making storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires worse and more frequent everywhere. Dubai was where the United Nations’ COP28 climate talks were held just last year.

Abu Dhabi’s newspaper The National said on Thursday that the heavy rains are a warning for countries in the Persian Gulf area to prepare for climate change.

“The challenge is huge,” the newspaper wrote, “because making changes means altering the cities in a region that has always been hot and sandy.”

Dubai Rain Flood

What Caused the Intense Rainfall in Dubai?

The main reason for the heavy rains was a storm system moving through the Arabian peninsula and across the Gulf of Oman. Another report by the AP mentioned that the rains might have been made worse by cloud seeding. This is when planes spray salt into clouds to make them rain. Meteorologists from the National Center for Meteorology said they did six or seven cloud-seeding flights before it started to rain, as reported by the AP.

UAE Officials Deny Conducting Cloud Seeding Before Dubai's Flooding Incident

Omar AlYazeedi, the second-in-command at the NCM, mentioned that his team did not do any cloud seeding when the recent weather event happened. He explained that for cloud seeding to work, it needs to be done on clouds that are just starting to form before it rains. If there's already a severe thunderstorm happening, then it's too late to start cloud seeding. AlYazeedi also said, "Keeping our people, our pilots, and our planes safe is very important to us. The NCM does not do cloud seeding when the weather is very bad."

Is Climate Change Responsible for the Flood?

Some experts think that the very high global temperatures might be causing the event. When it gets hotter, water evaporates not just from the ground but also from oceans and other water areas. This means a warmer air can hold more water. Studies say that if the average temperature goes up by 1 degree Celsius, the air can keep about 7% more water. This makes storms worse because there is more rain, storms can last longer, and happen more often, which can lead to very bad flooding.

Research in India's Thar desert and Australia's desert areas found that climate change might make it rain more in these dry places.

The average temperature worldwide has gone up by at least 1.1 degree Celsius since 1850, but in the UAE, it has gone up by almost 1.5 degree Celsius in the last 60 years. This increase in temperature is mostly because of more greenhouse gases, which trap heat, released since the Industrial Revolution.

However, it's really hard to say that any specific extreme weather event is because of climate change alone. This is because there are many factors, like natural climate changes, such as El Niño and La Niña, that also cause these events.

Dubai Flood Rain

UAE Weather Forecast from Friday 19 April until Tuesday 23 April 2024

The UAE weather center has given a weather report for Friday, April 19, to Tuesday, April 23, 2024.

  • Friday

It might be humid in the morning in some places near the coast and inside the country, with a chance of fog or mist. It will be mostly clear but could get a bit cloudy in the east in the afternoon.

Wind: The wind will be light to medium, coming from the northeast or southeast, blowing at 10 – 20 km/h but could reach up to 30 km/h.

Sea: The sea will be calm in both the Arabian Gulf and Oman Sea.

  • Saturday

Again, it could be humid in the morning with a chance of fog or mist. The day will be mostly clear with some clouds, and there might be clouds over the mountains in the afternoon that could bring rain.

Wind: Light to medium wind from the northeast or southeast, getting stronger at times, blowing at 10 – 20 km/h but could reach up to 35 km/h.

Sea: The sea will be calm in both the Arabian Gulf and Oman Sea.

  • Sunday

Expect humidity in the morning with possible fog or mist and a day that is mostly clear with some clouds at times.

Wind: Light to medium northeast or southeast winds, blowing at 10 – 20 km/h but could reach up to 30 km/h.

Sea: Calm in the Arabian Gulf and Oman Sea.

  • Monday

Humid in the morning in some coastal and inside places. The day will be partly cloudy, turning cloudy towards the west with a chance of light rain at night and warmer temperatures.

Wind: Light to medium northeast or southeast winds, getting stronger at times, blowing at 10 – 25 km/h but could reach up to 35 km/h.

Sea: Calm to medium in the Arabian Gulf and calm in the Oman Sea.

  • Tuesday

The day will be partly cloudy with a chance of light to medium rain, which could be heavy at times in some places. It will be cooler in some coastal areas.

Wind: Light to medium northeast or southeast winds, turning northwest and getting stronger at times, causing dust, blowing at 15 – 25 km/h but could reach up to 40 km/h.

Sea: Calm to medium in the Arabian Gulf and calm in Oman Sea.

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