Cloud seeding used to curb rising temperature in Dubai

As monsoon hit across the Indian subcontinent plaguing disaster in certain parts, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were facing a heatwave with temperatures soaring up to 50 degree Celsius. They found a way to bring relief for their people by employing Cloud seeding mechanism to bring about artificial rain and thereby dampening the escalating heat.

Don’t be too surprised, it’s a method that has been used since the previous half century, even in our country it has been availed as an alternative to fight the bout of drought hit areas on multiple episodes.

What is Cloud Seeding and how does it work?

Cloud seeding is a technique, to engineer the weather by dispersing clouds with fine particles, to make it snow or rain. Clouds are a collection of water particles or ice crystals. These come into existence when the evaporated water vapors present in the atmosphere cools and condenses around a condensation nuclei like dust or salt particles in air and thus leads to the formation of rain or snow.

For rainfall to occur these nuclei are vital and Cloud Seeding takes advantage of this fact by introducing artificial condensation nuclei to the troposphere thereby upgrading the clouds potential to produce rain or snow.

How UAE did it?

National Center of Meteorology (NCM) of UAE deployed the said method by using drones; experts first located the cumulus clouds ideal for rainmaking, a drone was then dispatched, which drizzles water onto warm clouds and ejects ice to cold ones.

More drones follow and spray the cloud with salt particles of silver iodide, potassium iodide and dry ice. These salt act as the condensation nuclei that pulls the water vapors into the cloud, which leads to condensation forming water droplet and eventually rainfall occurs.   

Environmental impact of cloud seeding:

Man-made precipitation enhancement is not at all environment friendly. Harmful effects include acidification of the oceans, ozone layer depletion, erratic changes in rainfall patterns, swift warming if seeding were to be stopped suddenly and an increase in the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Silver is a heavy, toxic metal that has negative impact on the health of plants, humans and animals.

Imbalance of ecology due to these practices cannot be simply overlooked. For example, in India, the coastal Andhra region acquire plenty of rainfall, however, Rayalaseema is an arid region of the same state. By fabricating a downpour in the latter region we are altering the amount of rainfall in the coastal for that day.

Apart from having an adverse effect on environment this method is unbelievable expensive. With the cloud seeding project in Dubai that started in July 2010 amounts to 11million US dollars and the recent artificial rain alone has caused them approximately more than 4 crore INR.

Similarly, Karnataka’s cloud seeding project (2 years) has cost the state 89 crore.

The scientific world is still in debate when it comes to cloud seeding benefits, from being used as a weapon (United States-Operation Popeye) to resulting in natural calamities (flash floods) the scientific world is highly opinionated. What we require is a greener alternative for the said method so that we may reap benefits without causing any harm to our environment.