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UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science: Reshaping the Future of Rain Enhancement

Last January, leading global scientists and experts in rain enhancement and atmospheric research convened in the UAE capital to address the pressing water and sustainability issues and discuss the latest developments in rain enhancement research. The gathering was part of the 4th International Rain Enhancement Forum (IREF), organized by the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) under the supervision of the National Center of Meteorology (NCM).

IREF’s busy schedule included a Town Hall Meeting centered on the theme of “Determining Future Directions for Rain Enhancement Research”, the outcomes of which provided important input for discussions towards shaping the new UAEREP solicitation and research proposal calls.

In addition to reviewing the program’s achievements and highlighting the latest developments in rain enhancement research globally, the participants discussed a variety of topics including the current and future research priorities in rain enhancement. They also examined ways to coordinate their efforts to ensure the alignment of research interests with emerging water security issues.

Commenting on the session, His Excellency Dr. Abdulla Al Mandous, Director of NCM and President of the Regional Association II (Asia) of WMO, said: “The town hall meeting provided us with an ideal opportunity to review the progress made in rain enhancement research and discuss further measures in our continuous quest for reliable water resources. With new technologies advancing our capabilities to increase precipitation through cloud seeding, the session served as an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine the future of this fast growing research area, while identifying knowledge gaps and opportunities. This will enable UAEREP to continue to make immense contributions to the development of rain enhancement research.”

For her part, Alya Al Mazroui, Director of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP), said: “UAEREP hosted this town hall meeting as part of its efforts to encourage constructive dialogue on issues related to water security and sustainability. In working closely with the scientific community and leveraging our complementary strengths, the program seeks to enhance the existing knowledge base and increase our focus on building new capabilities to strengthen our water ecosystems. This will allow us to direct scientific research towards optimizing and accelerating the development of solutions to address the most pressing water resource management challenges in 21st century.”

Providing an open forum for discussion by all workshop attendees, the session drew the participation of leading experts including Dr. Roelof Burger, a senior lecturer at North West University, Dr. Deon Terblanche, Weather and Climate Consultant at World Bank and former Director of Research at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Dr. Duncan Axisa, Director of Science Programs at Droplet Measurement Technologies, Prof. Olivier Pauluis, Professor of Mathematics at New York University, and Dr. Roelof Bruintjes, a senior scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR),

Addressing the session, Dr. Roelof Burger emphasized the strong link between successful cloud seeding and accurate nowcasting and noted that flaws in the nowcasting process represent a challenge to rain enhancement efforts. With respect to evaluation studies, in addition to rainfall amounts, he highlighted the probability distribution of storm lifetimes and the survivability of storms.

For his part, Dr. Deon Terblanche stressed the importance of getting a three-dimensional view of clouds in real time, noting that the current observations are limited to point measurements from the ground or from an aircraft.  Clouds are not all similar, and their volumetric properties are crucial to understanding seedability potential and cloud-seeding strategies.

Dr. Duncan Axisa contrasted the aerosol properties in different regions, and noted that seeding materials must be customized to the ambient conditions. Describing climate change as the biggest weather modification experiment ever, Prof. Olivier Pauluis highlighted the need to understand the link between climate and weather and to identify where there is overlap between the two problems.

Dr. Roelof Bruintjes talked about the difficulty in making simultaneous measurements for rain enhancement science. He opined that disconnected observations fail to provide the complete picture of precipitation processes. Therefore, more combined and coordinated observations, along with experimental campaigns, are needed to completely reveal the underlying physics in rain enhancement. 

After contributions by attendees in the open session, the event was divided into five groups, each with its own theme related to a subtopic of rain enhancement science and research. Participants were invited to select a group to join and contribute to the discussions. The five groups each discussed, from a specific angle, the current status of science and technology in rain enhancement, gaps in knowledge and capabilities, and strategies for future work. They deliberated in detail on a broad range of issues including artificial intelligence and intelligent systems applications, innovative methodologies and approaches, advances in numerical modeling and weather forecasting, evaluation of rain enhancement impacts, and the process of transitioning from laboratory research to field operations.

After the group discussions, the results were presented by group members and summarized in written reports. The written reports include specific recommendations on future directions for UAEREP.