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Article: Rain enhancement could offer an ‘ocean in the sky’ for arid regions

H.E.Dr. Abdulla Al Mandous

Rain enhancement could offer an ‘ocean in the sky’ for arid regions

At next January’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s latest three awardees and their projects will be announced in front of an international audience of scientists, government stakeholders and the media.

This special event will also celebrate the outstanding success achieved by an imaginative and ambitious initiative in only three years since its inception.

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, under the leadership of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs in the UAE, serves as a focal point for the ground-breaking innovation needed to tackle the challenge of global water stress.

By offering an annual award of US $ 5 million to up to five research proposals submitted by successful awardees, the Program aims to advance scientific understanding in this field through new knowledge of cloud formation, precipitation, and other relevant physical processes.

This bold venture is being overseen by the National Center for Meteorology (NCM) in Abu Dhabi, which plays a key role in leading national studies of climate and environmental phenomena and keeping track of local weather conditions through a national network of air stations and radar.

In keeping with its mission, the Center has established strong and fruitful research partnerships with leading international organizations. For instance, the NCM is actively helping the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) fulfil its mandate as a specialized agency of the United Nations to foster collaborative study and monitoring of the Earth’s atmosphere, the interaction of climate with land and oceans, and the impact these processes have on global water resources.

In this context, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is a timely initiative that is helping to address the increasingly urgent challenge of water scarcity.

Rising global populations and the resultant pressure on the water-energy-food nexus has created an urgent need for sustainable solutions to the wide ranges of social, economic and environmental challenges raised by the depletion of natural resources.

The United Nations recently warned that increased carbon emissions could significantly reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources in dry subtropical regions. Total global demand for water is expected to increase by 55 per cent by 2050, by which time up to 40 per cent of the world’s population could be living with severe water stress.

In the face of this immense challenge, advances in the science and technology of rain enhancement are offering an increasingly viable and technically feasible method of replenishing and boosting existing water supplies.

Effective enhancement of primary rainfall could offer an ‘ocean in the sky’ to be tapped for groundwater recharge and the provision of fresh water for consumption as a supplement to traditional energy-intensive methods for producing water such as desalination.

The extent of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement’s global impact to date is evident in the fact that 1,220 researchers and 520 institutions from more than 50 countries have been involved in this innovative UAE initiative.

The Program’s awardees are already breaking new ground in developing new scientific and technological methods that will be applicable to regions subject to water stress around the world.

Next year will see a pause in the Program’s annual call for submissions to allow us to both assess the immense progress made so far and to set new strategic goals in cooperation with our deep and broad network of international partners.

In close collaboration with international experts from the WMO, the Program will identify the most promising areas for future research while expanding its global campaign to raise awareness of the potential of rain enhancement through publications and continued active outreach.

Now established as the most prominent international scientific initiative of its kind, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science will continue to drive the scientific and technological innovation needed to ensure that humanity can secure the fresh water essential to life while prospering in harmony with nature.

Our celebration of the Program’s new awardees at ADSW in January will mark the culmination of an initial three years of successful innovation and solid achievements.

Through our outstanding record so far and our ambitious plans for our future development, we will continue to help realize the immense potential of the UAE as an internationally-recognised knowledge-based economy.

By taking up the challenge of advancing rain enhancement science, the UAE has once again demonstrated its inspiring and generous vision and commitment to making a real difference in solving the water stress conundrum for the benefit of all at risk.