Misleading guesses about seeding the clouds, triggered the floods that hit it Dubai.

How unusual was the rainfall and what were the reasons behind the extreme rainfall?

Dubai is located on the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is usually very dry. But while it receives less than 100 millimeters (3.9 in) of rainfall per year on average, it experiences occasional extreme rainfall.

In the city of Al-Ain – just over 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Dubai – about 256 millimeters of rain was recorded in just 24 hours.

“This part of the world is characterized by long periods without rain followed by irregular, heavy rainfall, but even so, this was a very rare rainfall event,” explains Professor Maarten Ambaum, a meteorologist at the University of Reading who has studied the patterns rainfall, in the Gulf region.

What role did climate change play?

It is not yet possible to precisely quantify the role that climate change has played. This requires a full scientific analysis of natural and human factors, which can take several months.

Simply put: warmer air can hold more moisture – about 7% more for every degree Celsius – which in turn can increase the intensity of rain.

“The intensity of the rain was a record, but this is consistent with a warming climate, with more moisture available to fuel storms and make heavy rainfall and associated flooding progressively more severe,” explains Richard Allan, professor of climate science at University. of Reading.

A recent study showed that annual rainfall could increase by up to around 30% in much of the UAE by the end of the century as the world continues to warm.

“If people continue to burn oil, gas and coal, the climate will continue to warm, rainfall will continue to become more intense, and people will continue to die in floods,” says Dr. Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial. London College.

What is cloud seeding and did it play a role?

Cloud seeding involves manipulating existing clouds to help produce more rain.

This can be done by using aircraft to drop small particles (such as silver iodide) into the clouds. The water vapor can then condense more easily and turn into rain.

The technique has been around for decades and the UAE has used it in recent years to help deal with water shortages.

In the hours following the floods, some social media users were quick to mistakenly attribute the extreme weather solely to recent cloud seeding operations in the country.

Earlier Bloomberg reports said cloud seeding planes were deployed on Sunday and Monday, but not on Tuesday, when the flooding occurred.

While the BBC was unable to verify when the cloud seeding took place, experts say that at best would have little effect on the storm and that the focus on cloud seeding is “misleading.”

“Even if cloud seeding encouraged the clouds around Dubai to shed water, the atmosphere would likely have more water to form clouds in the first place because of climate change,” says Dr Otto.

Four ways climate change affects extreme weather

Cloud seeding generally develops when air, moisture, and dust conditions are insufficient to result in rain. For the past week, forecasters had warned of a high risk of flooding in the Gulf.

“When such intense and large-scale systems are predicted, cloud seeding – which is an expensive process – is not performed because [δεν υπάρχει] need to create such robust regional-scale systems,” says Professor Diana Francis, Head of Environmental and Geophysical Sciences at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.

BBC Weather meteorologist Matt Taylor also noted that severe weather events were already predictedi. “Ahead of the event, computer models (which do not factor in potential cloud seeding effects) were already predicting a year’s worth of rain falling in about 24 hours,” he said.

“The effects were much wider than I would have expected from cloud seeding alone – severe flooding that affected large areas from Bahrain to Oman.”

Cloud seeding missions in the Emirates are run by the National Center for Meteorology (NCM), a government task force.

How prepared is the UAE for extreme rainfall?

Preventing heavy rainfall from causing deadly floods requires strong defenses to deal with sudden heavy falls.

Dubai is, of course, very urbanized. There is little green space to absorb the moisture and the drainage facilities were unable to cope with such high levels of rainfall.

“There needs to be strategies and adaptation measures for this new reality of more frequent and intense rainfall,” explains Professor Francis.

“For example, the infrastructure of roads and facilities must be adapted, reservoirs created to store water from spring rain and use it later in the year.”

In January, the UAE Roads and Transport Authority created a new unit to help manage flooding in Dubai, but they fell short of the known consequences.