The UAE Plans To Build An Artificial Mountain To Attract More Rainfall

The United Arab Emirates is example of how man and nature can together achieve the impossible, having cropped up some green sustainable cities in the midst of a desert. The UAE is known for its ambitious megaprojects – be it the tall-standing Burj Khalifa or the extremely aesthetic artificial archipelago in the shape of a palm tree, Palm Jumeirah. The officials are planning to take their ambition one notch up as they put up an impudent plan of erecting a mountain for a utilitarian purpose –  to attract more clouds, and hence receive more rain.

Having achieved the impossible many times over in the past, one can surely place a safe bet that if the UAE has put its mind to it, it will create a mountain no matter what. As per a Dubai-based publication Arabian Business, UAE is in the nascent stage of analysing how a man-made mountain can maximize rainfall in the country – and is seeking consultation from the US-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to further validate the idea. Roelof Bruintjes of NCAR has reported that they’re basically studying the mountain’s affect on weather – and based on this they’re figuring out the type of mountain they need to erect, the height of it, and also how its slopes should be. They’ll be able to decide better after the first report is drafted this summer.

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One can’t deny the importance of mountains for rainfall. The moist air from the mountain is evaporated thus cooling the mountain in the process, and upon condensation the same drop falls back to Earth as rainfall. This implies that the maximum impact of the rainfall will be felt on the mountain area that faces the wind, while the other side shall be comparatively drier.

Rain is an issue UAE needs to address, as the rainfall in these regions are limited to just a handful of days during the summer, when temperatures reach a peak of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and other that that there’s almost no rains at all. Most of the years the total rainfall doesn’t even break 5 inches (Washington DC receives an annual rainfall of 40 inches).

Places like Dubai, which are aiming to become international tourist destinations, can have serious water scarcity problems. The same problem can crop up in rural areas where many farmers are still dependant on flood irrigation systems. Increase in water consumption has put up UAE residents among the biggest per capita consumers globally, despite government’s best attempts to regulate some usage of water.

There has also been a campaign running across the country since the past few years to generate more rainfall through artificially seeded clouds. Reports indicate that near about $558,000 was spent last year on 186 seeding missions across UAE, and the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science recently declared a research grant of $5 million for teams studying the technology. Till now the campaign appears to be successful, with registered rainfall being higher than what was predicted. But interfering with nature had its side-effects – a record rainfall in March (partially due to seeding) saw over 11 inches of fall within a day. That rainfall even created commotion in the city, and many flights were cancelled owing to heavy rains, strong winds and floods.

Other than cloud seeding, the country has created a huge desalination plant to convert salty sea water into drinkable fresh water. Mountains can become a significant rain-bringer, at least in theory. UAE has lots of mountains in the northern part of the country, but just a small fraction of population lives there. Also, building a mountain is very expensive – a proposal to build a 1.2 mile-high mountain in Netherlands was found doable if the mountain was hollow, and this project cost estimates were around $230 billion.

As of now, UAE has spent well over $4,00,000 studying the idea. Officials of NCAR have admitted that the eventual cost of this whole project may cost a lot to UAE.

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