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UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science Third Cycle Awardees ready to put their innovations to the test

"New projects will build on achievements of world-leading scientific and technological research program"

This year’s edition of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), one of the most prestigious global forums of its kind, featured a special awards ceremony that highlighted the potential of rain enhancement science to offer new solutions to the urgent global challenge of water security.

The World Health Organization’s estimation that 844 million people lack access to a basic drinking water service, and that half the world’s population could be living in water stressed areas by 2025, demonstrates the scale of the problem and the need for a coordinated global response.

To this end, the UAE is playing a leading role by seeking to kickstart and guide research on innovative solutions through 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 National Center of Meteorology (NCM), the Program offers a US $5 million program designed to encourage scientists and researchers to explore new horizons through advanced science and technology.

At the recent ADSW event, three new awardees were honored by the Program for successful research project proposals chosen from a highly competitive field of 201 pre-proposal submissions, representing the work of 710 scientists and researchers affiliated to 316 institutions from 68 countries. The new award recipients will join a vibrant and creative initiative that is already carrying out ground-breaking work covering nanotechnology, advanced algorithms, land cover modification, ice production processes in clouds, atmospheric aerosols, and cloud electrical properties.

According to His Excellency Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director of the NCM: “These three projects provide further opportunities to develop rain enhancement science through offering innovative solutions to address some of the most pressing issues of our time including water security and water scarcity. The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science has come a long way in enabling new solutions to water security, and will open new horizons for the development of innovative scientific and technological methods that will specifically benefit dry and semi-arid regions around the world."

The three new projects due to commence this year will be led by internationally recognized and experienced researchers from Russia, USA and China.

Dr Ali Abshaev is 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.

As a specialist in hail suppression and precipitation enhancement, Dr Abshaev has substantial hands-on experience providing hail suppression, meteorological and airport services in Russia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Serbia and Macedonia. A co-author of 148 articles on the physics of clouds, satellite and radar data integration algorithms relating to hail suppression, fog dissipation, and convective processes above mountains, he has also co-registered 9 patents in the Russian Federation and written 4 manuals on hail suppression.

Entitled “On the creation of updrafts for the formation of artificial clouds and rainfall”, Dr Abshaev’s project will seek to stimulate convection and precipitation with energy derived from solar radiation. The technique involves deploying aerosols to absorb solar energy and helium-filled balloons in cloudless conditions to heat specific atmospheric areas: preliminary studies using 3D models have already demonstrated that heating up local atmospheric layers can create artificial updrafts.

“This ambitious research plan is designed to investigate artificial cloud creation through an analysis of the possibilities of different physical approaches with the potential of producing precipitation. In carrying out the project, we hope to address the fundamental problem of stimulating rainfall in the absence of clouds. Thanks to the support offered by the UAE leadership and NCM, we are looking forward to developing our research and contributing to the advancement of the science of rain enhancement along with our fellow scientists”, commented Dr Abshaev.

Leading a highly innovative study on “Targeted observation and seeding using autonomous unmanned aircraft systems” is Dr Eric W. Frew, who is seeking to develop an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that utilizes in-situ real time data to sense and target suitable clouds for seeding

With over twenty years’ experience of designing and deploying unmanned aircraft systems, Dr Frew is an Associate Professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department and Director of the Autonomous Systems Interdisciplinary Research Theme in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder. His current research interests include UAS deployment in complex atmospheric environments among others, information-gathering by mobile robots, and miniature self-deploying systems. Dr Frew also co-led a team that performed the first-ever sampling of a severe supercell thunderstorm by a UAS.

Dr Frew comment that: “Our project differs from other approaches by combining autonomous targeted observation algorithms with unmanned aircraft carrying new miniaturized sensors that can also draw on an observation simulation system rapid enough to enable online decision-making.

“With the support and expertise offered by the NCM and other international colleagues, our project aims to explore one of the most understudied areas of cloud seeding, namely the effective targeting and delivery of seeding material. The results of the project will advance methods, tools, and techniques for delivering seeding material to the best locations for enhancing rain.”

The third and final new awardee, Dr Lulin Xue, is Chief Scientist of Hua Xin Chuang Zhi Science and Technology LLC and a member of the Beijing Weather Modification Office advisory panel.

Along with his expertise in aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions, cloud microphysics and dynamics, boundary layer and mountain meteorology and numerical modeling, Dr Xue’s research work has also led to the development of a real-time cloud seeding forecasting system. In addition to working on cloud seeding projects in Saudi Arabia and the United States, he has also been a key scientist responsible for the numerical modeling in several projects carried out at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) at Boulder, Colorado since 2009.

Dr Xue’s team will work on “Using Advanced Experimental - Numerical Approaches to Untangle Rain Enhancement (UAE-NATURE)”, a project that involves an international consortium of research institutes and universities collaborating on a distinctive research approach to rain enhancement based on advanced laboratory experiments and state-of-the-art numerical models.

The project seeks to improve knowledge of hygroscopic seeding impacts on warm rain initiation, discriminate the dynamical and microphysical processes by which natural and seeded precipitation forms and evolves within clouds, and quantify potential cloud seeding impacts on UAE rainfall over a 10-year period using high-resolution regional climate and ensemble seeding simulations. Dr Xue also hopes to understand how cloud seeding affects cloud cover lifetimes, assess impacts on resultant groundwater availability, and quantify spatial and temporal rainfall distribution in the UAE.  

Dr Xue commented: “Our proposed studies aim to advance the science of rain enhancement across broad spatial and time scales involving observations, experiments and model simulations. The project will also employ novel applications of a large cloud chamber, DNS simulations, piggybacking methodology, and long term regional climate simulations related to cloud seeding. I am very grateful to the NCM for its support and encouragement of this project.”

The sum of the innovation and insights offered by the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s three new awardees testifies to the success of the Program in capturing the imagination of the global scientific community and building the strong collaborative networks needed to develop this exciting and important field of work.

The Program’s globally acclaimed success has confirmed the status of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as an emerging hub for the innovation needed to tackle global sustainability challenges.

Through its efforts, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science will continue to move from strength to strength by facilitating the creativity and active knowledge transfers needed to ensure water security as a basis for development in vulnerable regions around the world.