Drought-stricken Dubai has created artificial rain to cope with sweltering heat, but it could have toxic side effects.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has very little rainfall, in fact, it only has 100mm precipitation on average per year. In response to this, authorities tried firing chemicals into the clouds to encourage more rain.
This process is called cloud seeding and it modifies a cloud’s structure to increase the chance of precipitation. This is done by adding small, ice-like particles to clouds such as silver iodide.
Despite its success in creating monsoon-like downpours in the UAE, the artificial production of rain can have dangerous side effects.
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Cloud seeding has been around since the 1940s and was originally developed as a potential weapon by the US military. It was also used over a city in 1949, while New York was experiencing a serious drought, and has been valuable in fighting the US’s declining snowpack. Typically, the process increases rainfall by 10-15%.
Nonetheless, silver iodide is toxic and there is evidence that cloud seeding damages marine life. This is because it can cause water temperatures to increase. Not only that but there are concerns it can damage soil with its toxic components.
Additionally, the Independent reports that experts are worried this process robs other areas of rainfall and could lead to droughts in locations that usually have a balanced climate.
The chance of silver iodide polluting water is a significant risk for the UAE. The country has invested billions in the process of extracting salt from the sea and it will undoubtedly want to keep this water clean.
Fortunately, new ways of encouraging waterfall have been developed. 6.5-foot drones have been made that find clouds and give them an electrical charge to cause small cloud droplets to attract one another until they turn into raindrops large enough to fall to Earth.
The climate crisis is leading to an increased number of droughts, with the United Nations warning that water scarcity will impact 40% of the world’s population and ‘as many as 700 million people are at risk of being displaced as a result of drought by 2030.’
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