More than 100 cloud seeding missions were carried out in the UAE in the first quarter of 2017, Arabian Business can reveal.
Figures obtained from the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) show that the UAE conducted 101 cloud seeding operations between January and the end of March, compared to 77 missions in the same period last year.
This represents a 30 percent increase from the first quarter of 2016.
NCMS officials attributed the increase in operations this year to there being more viable cloud cover in the UAE.
Cloud seeding involves flying light aircraft into the base of clouds and releasing flares containing potassium chloride, sodium chloride and magnesium. The mixture encourages water vapour in the clouds to form droplets heavy enough to fall as rain.
In warm countries, including the UAE, existing water drops are often too small to form raindrops, instead evaporating before they reach the ground.
The figures provided to Arabian Business also showed that 31 cloud seeding flights were made during the last recorded week of heavy rain during March 20-28. The average number of cloud seeding flights made in the UAE each year is between 160 and 200, the NCMS added.
The UAE is under pressure to develop more cost-effective and sustainable methods of meeting water demand in the semi-arid country than its traditional source, desalination, which is at least 60 times more expensive, according to the NCMS.
Omar Ahmed Al Yazeedi, director of research and development (R&D) and training at the NCMS, said: “Cloud seeding is much more cost-effective than desalination, so it’s of huge benefit.
“There is sufficient cloud cover in the UAE that maximising rainfall from clouds has a significant effect in terms of recharging underground water sources for future use.”
The UAE spent $558,000 on cloud seeding operations in 2015, another NCMS official told Arabian Business last year, but, with the uptick in operations since, this year’s budget is likely to be higher.
However, the NCMS declined to reveal its 2017 budget.
Click here to read our analysis on the impact of cloud seeding in the UAE.