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Article: The UAE’s new partnership with Russia will strengthen global water sustainability

Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director, National Center of Meteorology (NCM)

Leading international organizations and the global scientific community are warning that a combination of rising populations, resource depletion and climate change threatens almost half of the world’s population with high water stress within the next decade.

The World Bank reported that 1.6 billion people live in countries and regions with absolute water shortage and predicts that this number will rise to 2.8 billion people by 2025.

In response to these global concerns, the UAE has offered a novel approach to the water security challenge by seeking to develop the science and technology of rain enhancement.

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, launched under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and managed by the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology (NCM), has already made substantial progress in advancing research into climate phenomena and improving the efficiency of targeted cloud seeding operations.

This month, a Program roadshow team is visiting leading scientific institutions in Russia in search of further scientific and technical innovations aimed at mitigating the risk of water stress threatening arid and semi-arid regions around the world.

The recent visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Russia confirms the increasingly close and mutually beneficial ties between our two countries across a wide range of economic, security, and development issues.

In tems of its scientific potential in the field of rain enhancement, Russia has an enviable international reputation for the quality of its work in meteorology, hydrology and related sciences.

Having inherited an active cloud seeding program initially developed under the former Soviet Union, Russian scientists have continued work on the aerial deployment of carbon dioxide into clouds to help generate increased rainfall.

More recent cloud seeding efforts refined by teams of dedicated scientists at Russian institutions have also been developed to modify rainfall and snowfall patterns.

Bilateral links between scientists and research institutions in the UAE and Russia working on rain enhancement have been strengthened by an award from the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s Third Cycle to Dr Ali Abshaev, an Associated Professor at the Hail Suppression Research Center in Russia and Head of the Weather Modification Laboratory at the High Mountain Geophysical Institute of Russian Hydrometeorological Service.

Dr Abshaev is working on an ambitious project to stimulate rainfall by absorbing solar energy through aerosols and deploying helium-filled balloons to heat specific atmospheric areas.

By nurturing such productive partnerships, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science and the NCM are spurring valuable global research offering technically advanced solutions to help alleviate problems arising from water shortages.

Since 1990, the NCM has led the development of rain enhancement science as a key goal within the overall objectives of the UAE’s National Innovation Strategy.

Based on the development and refinement of hygroscopic materials, including sodium and potassium chloride, to induce rainfall, experiments with these specialized materials have produced results promising enough to warrant further research on their viable application in water-scarce areas.

The NCM’s active research programs currently cover a wide range of meteorological and atmospheric phenomena, borderline and cloud dynamics, aerosol usage, precipitation, and individual cloud characteristics.

In addition to the ground-breaking work currently being undertaken by Dr Abshaev, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s current awardees are also innovating across a range of areas, including employing new algorithms to enhance precipitation understanding, using nanotechnology to accelerate water condensation, analysis of ice production processes in cumulus clouds, the role of atmospheric aerosols in precipitation enhancement, and modification of the electrical properties of clouds.

Further projects also commenced this year dealing with targeted observation and seeding through unmanned aerial vehicles, and advanced experimental-numerical approaches to rain enhancement.

Now established as the most prominent international scientific initiative of its kind, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science will continue to drive innovation for the benefit of all those in arid regions at risk of water scarcity and the threat of drought.

To this end, our visit to Russia represents the latest stage in our efforts to build enduring and productive links with the international scientific community in pursuit of our common objectives.

Through our advanced work and international partnerships, the UAE is helping to shape the policy agenda, support scientific enquiry, and adopt inventive new solutions for the benefit of populations across the world in arid and semi-arid regions threatened by drought.

In the quest for sustainable water supplies, rain enhancement is likely to become an increasingly important part of national resource strategies in regions subject to water stress.

For the UAE, the success of the Program confirms both its knowledge leadership and commitment to providing the leadership needed to address a challenge of global concern.