No, Dubai’s Floods Weren’t Caused By Cloud Seeding

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Dubai is underwater. Heavy storms person caused flash flooding crossed nan United Arab Emirates, starring to shocking scenes circulating connected societal media: Cars abandoned by nan roadside, planes sloshing done flooded runways. Hundreds of flights person been canceled astatine Dubai’s engaged world airport, and astatine slightest 18 group person died successful neighboring Oman.

News reports and societal media posts were speedy to constituent nan blasted astatine unreality seeding. The UAE has a long-running programme for trying to compression much rainfall retired of nan clouds that walk complete nan usually arid region—it has a squad of pilots who spray brackish particles into passing storms to promote much h2o to form. The floods were positioned arsenic a cautionary communicative by some: Here’s what happens erstwhile you messiness pinch nature. Even Bloomberg reported that unreality seeding had worsened nan flooding.

The truth is much complicated. I’ve spent nan past fewer months reporting connected unreality seeding successful nan UAE for an upcoming WIRED feature, and while it’s existent that nan UAE has been moving unreality seeding missions this week—it performs much than 300 a year—it’s a agelong to opportunity that it was responsible for nan floods. (In fact, arsenic we were preparing this communicative for publication connected Wednesday morning, nan UAE’s National Center for Meteorology told CNBC it had not seeded immoderate clouds earlier nan large wind struck connected Tuesday.)

There are a fewer reasons for this. First: Even nan astir optimistic assessments of unreality seeding opportunity that it tin summation rainfall by a maximum of 25 percent annually. In different words, it would person rained anyway, and if unreality seeding did person an impact, it would only person been to somewhat summation nan magnitude of precipitation that fell. The assemblage is still retired connected nan effectiveness of unreality seeding successful lukewarm climates, and moreover if it does work, unreality seeding can’t nutrient rainfall retired of bladed air, it tin only heighten what’s already successful nan sky.

Secondly, seeding operations thin to return spot successful nan eastbound of nan country, acold from much populated areas for illustration Dubai. This is mostly because of restrictions connected aerial traffic, but intends that it was improbable that immoderate seeding particles were still progressive by nan clip nan storms reached Dubai. Most of nan scientists I’ve spoken to opportunity nan effect of unreality seeding has a very small, localized effect and is improbable to origin flooding successful different areas. But possibly nan champion grounds that unreality seeding wasn’t progressive successful these floods is nan truth that it rained each complete nan region. Oman didn’t do immoderate unreality seeding, but it was moreover much severely affected by flooding, pinch a number of casualties.

It’s breathtaking to constituent nan digit astatine a scary technology, but nan existent origin of nan flooding is apt much banal: Dubai is comically ill-equipped to woody pinch rainfall. The metropolis has expanded quickly complete nan past fewer decades, pinch small attraction paid successful nan past to infrastructure for illustration large wind drains that could thief it woody pinch a abrupt influx of water. It’s mostly actual and glass, and there’s very small greenish abstraction to soak up rainfall. The consequence is chaos whenever it rains—though to beryllium fair, astir cities would struggle to woody pinch a year’s worthy of rainfall falling successful 12 hours.

However, ambiance alteration whitethorn besides beryllium playing a role. As nan satellite heats up, nan analyzable upwind dynamics of nan region are shifting and changing successful ways that whitethorn bring much convulsive storms. City planners astir nan world are trying to make their cities “spongier” to thief woody pinch flash flooding and prevention much h2o for drier parts of nan year. Instead of utilizing unreality seeding to move nan entity into a sponge, Dubai would beryllium amended disconnected trying to move nan metropolis into one.

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