The UAE is considering proposals for an artificial mountain in a bid to increase rainfall.
A team at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is understood to have received a $400,000 grant towards a detailed study exploring whether it would work.
Mountains are a major factor in rainfall as they force warm, moist air to rise and cool, and thus create clouds.
Increasing the number of clouds provides more options for seeding – a process where aircraft add chemicals such as silver iodide or potassium iodide to clouds in the form of ice crystals, boosting rainfall.
“What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be,” explained NCAR lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes.
“We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step.”
Increasing the number of clouds provides more options for seeding – a process where chemicals such as silver iodide or potassium iodide are added to clouds in the form of ice crystals, boosting rainfall.
No location has yet been set for the mountain, as the NCAR team is exploring various options.
“Building a mountain is not a simple thing,” Bruintjes said. “We are still busy finalising assimilation, so we are doing a spread of all kinds of heights, widths and locations.”
There is also no indication yet as to how much it would cost, but Bruintjes admits the project will only go ahead if they can develop a proposal that isn’t too expensive for the government.
“This gives them an idea of what kind of alternatives there are for the long-term future,” he said. “If it goes through, the second phase would be to go to an engineering company and decide whether it is possible or not.”
The UAE government spent a reported $558,000 on cloud seeding last year. The experiments are believed to have played a part in recent record levels of rainfall, which were also accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds.