Exclusive: UAE mulls ‘man-made mountain’ in bid to improve rainfall

$400,000 grant made to experts at University of Atmospheric Research to conduct research into ideal size and location of mountain
By Yasmin Al Heialy
Sun 01 May 2016 09:50 AM

The UAE is currently in the first stage of a man-made mountain development project as the country mulls different approaches to maximising rainfall.

Experts from the US-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are in the “detailed modelling study” phase, NCAR scientist and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes told Arabian Business.

“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,” said Bruintjes. “We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step.”

In collaboration with the National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS), the UCAR received a fund of $400,000 in February last year to propose a “detailed modelling study evaluating the effects of building a mountain on the weather”.

The presence of mountains forces air to rise, creating clouds that can then be seeded, Bruintjes said.

Cloud seeding, a weather modification process designed to increase the amount of rainfall produced from clouds, has a permanent unit at the NCMS’s meteorological department, which conducts operations across the UAE.

The department recently revealed $558,000 was spent on UAE cloud-seeding last year.

“Building a mountain is not a simple thing,” added Bruintjes. “We are still busy finalising assimilation, so we are doing a spread of all kinds of heights, widths and locations [as we simultaneously] look at the local climatology.”

The specific location has not yet been determined as the NCAR experts are still testing out different sites across the UAE.

“If [the project] is too expensive for [the government], logically the project won’t go through, but this gives them an idea of what kind of alternatives there are for the long-term future,” Bruintjes said. “If it goes through, the second phase would be to go to an engineering company and decide whether it is possible or not.”

Mountains play an important role in influencing global and regional climates and weather conditions. By intercepting the global circulation of air, they have a decisive effect on wind, precipitation and temperature patterns, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2011 report.

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