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Furthering Rain Enhancement Science with the 5th Cycle Grant Awards: Interview with Alya Al Mazroui, Director of UAEREP

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP) recently hosted their 5th Cycle Awards Ceremony, awarding three new teams on their unique projects in the rain enhancement sciences. Why do you believe it’s important to invest in this field?

Rain enhancement presents a promising opportunity to diversify water resources and reduce dependence on traditional water supplies. In the face of a rapidly growing population that places increasing pressure on water resources, investing in rainfall enhancement sciences has become a strategic solution for countries with arid and semi-arid climates, such as the UAE, to ensure a more sustainable and reliable water supply. UAEREP is actively contributing to these efforts by investing in research and technologies associated with rain enhancement. As highlighted in the WMO Peer Review Report on Global Precipitation Enhancement Activities, various international cloud seeding initiatives have demonstrated that cloud seeding can expel out more water from the cloud in an average between 5 to 25 percent, depending on the favorable weather conditions, further emphasizing the importance of such investments in advancing water security.


What are the main outcomes of the projects you have previously funded?

The projects funded by UAEREP have significantly contributed to enhancing our scientific understanding of rain enhancement processes, as well as supported the development of innovative technologies for precipitation enhancement. These projects have employed a diverse range of technologies, such as nanotechnology, unmanned aerial vehicles, algorithm-based data processing, Artificial Intelligence, and advanced experimental-numerical approaches to rain enhancement, and more. The implementation of such varied methodologies has not only enhanced the capabilities of local researchers and institutions engaged in these projects, but has provided the scientific community with valuable insights into cloud formation and precipitation microphysics.


How has the development of these previously awarded research projects progressed?

The UAEREP awardee projects from previous cycles have made significant contributions to advancing scientific community's knowledge base, generating interesting findings and valuable data. Their project proposals have been transformed into prototypes which are tested and validated through field tests and research campaigns facilitated by the program. This systematic process facilitates the translation of these innovations into practical applications tailored to meet the specific environmental conditions of the UAE and other arid and semi-arid regions. Furthermore, the program encourages new proposals in each cycle to build on and enhance prior work in rain enhancement, particularly those supported by the UAEREP. This approach ensures further development and refinement of these technologies to ensure their effectiveness and applicability on a broader scale.


The TRLs are not new to UAEREP projects. What kind of new developments have you adopted to the 5th cycle projects and beyond?

In the 5th cycle projects and beyond, UAEREP has strategically focused on achieving an advanced level of technology readiness for proposed solutions. The program places greater emphasis on articulating a clear TRL progression for technologies, models, and relevant deliverables within project proposals. Proposals are expected to not only outline the initial and targeted TRLs of the proposed solutions, but also to emphasize the importance of prototype and model validation in a research environment. This refined approach to TRL progression is a critical factor in the evaluation of proposals, highlighting UAEREP's efforts to push the boundaries of technological innovation in the rain enhancement research.


What are the new technologies that you are funding in the 5th cycle? What are you expecting in terms of outcome?

In the Fifth Cycle, UAEREP continues to fund groundbreaking project proposals that harness novel technologies for rain enhancement. Dr. Guillaume Matras's project is pioneering the use of lasers to induce controlled atmospheric modifications to influence and enhance precipitation processes through numerical simulations and laboratory experiments. Prof. Will Cantrell's project focuses on quantifying the 'modifiability' of clouds, exploring innovative methods such as hygroscopic seeding in addition to a trial of electrical charging effects. Additionally, Prof. Daniel Rosenfeld's project aims to develop the capability to diagnose cloud seedability and precipitation efficiency in near real-time. This will be achieved at a spatial resolution of the convective cloud cluster, utilizing operationally available satellite and meteorological data. As these projects progress, they hold the promise of offering practical applications and contributing valuable insights to advance rain enhancement research.


You announced that this cycle will focus on two main topics, including enhancing cloud formation. How was the reaction to this specific category from your applicants?

This specific category addresses a critical aspect of rain enhancement science and presents an opportunity for researchers to contribute innovative solutions to advance the field. Moreover, our focus on enhancing cloud formation within the Fifth Cycle generated significant interest among applicants. This emphasis aligns with UAEREP’s efforts to advance the understanding of atmospheric dynamics and cloud physics for effective rain enhancement strategies in line with the program’s commitment to exploring innovative approaches for addressing water scarcity in arid and semi-arid regions.


When adapting its research priorities, how did UAEREP determine these were the two topics to pursue during its Fifth Cycle?

These topics were determined based on UAEREP’s assessment of the potential long-term impact of research on enhancing cloud formation, the strategic direction of the committee of UAEREP, alongside the international experts within the field, as well as how its findings could contribute to precipitation enhancement and water security in arid and semi-arid regions. During the process, we considered the current state of scientific knowledge and advancements in the field of rain enhancement science to address existing gaps in understanding the atmospheric processes related to precipitation. Additionally, the insights gained from previous cycles of the program have influenced this decision, as these two topics have gained significant interest from the scientific community within the broader field of climate science and atmospheric research.


Is rainfall enhancement still a viable investment?

At the UAEREP, we consider rain enhancement a viable and essential investment given its crucial role in addressing water scarcity, ensuring sustainable water resource management, and contributing to climate adaptation strategies. As global water scarcity challenges continue to intensify due to increasing demand, climate change, and population growth, it is imperative to adopt innovative and sustainable solutions to ensure the availability and sustainability of water resources for the current and future generations. Furthermore, the program’s support for advanced scientific research and technological innovations in rain enhancement underscores its belief in the viability of rainfall enhancement as a strategic investment for ensuring water security and fostering climate resilience.


Considering the successful conclusion of COP28, how is UAEREP planning to build on its outcomes regarding water security?

As UAEREP is focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change, including water security challenges, the program will build on the outcomes of COP28 to promote technological innovation to tackle these challenges. Furthermore, it will leverage the insights and global collaborations established during its participation in the conference to promote its research endeavors in rain enhancement research. The program also intends to incorporate the recommendations of COP28 to guide its future research direction, actively contributing to global efforts in securing water resources on both national and global scales.


How does UAEREP decide which countries to collaborate with on its research projects? 

Our collaboration decisions on research projects are derived from sheer scientific considerations, aligning with our unwavering commitment to global prosperity through scientific and technological advancements to contribute to a brighter future for all.


What is UAEREP’s commitment to innovation? 

Our commitment to innovation is rooted in responsibility. By investing in science and technology, we strive to accelerate international research efforts to address future challenges with proactive and innovative solutions. The projects awarded in the Fifth Cycle are testament to our dedication to responsible and impactful innovation.