Dubai Is Making It Rain...Literally

The city in the desert is looking toward new technology to help with heatwaves.

camels in dubai desert
(Image credit: Getty)

When you live in a desert where temperatures regularly reach 115 degrees or higher, rain is a relief. And then it floods… 

The United Arab Emirates is currently experiencing heavy downpours after a summer of unbearably hot temperatures. But this isn’t some natural phenomenon. The country uses cloud seeding to make it rain. 

The UAE’s National Center of Meteorology is running a trial that uses drone technology to zap clouds with electrical charges. The charge jolts droplets inside the clouds, which then group together and become large enough to fall to the ground rather than evaporate. 

The technology was created by a team of scientists at the University of Reading in England. The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science paid the university $1.5 million for use over three years to develop the drone technology. 

Cloud seeding, which is also common in China and India, is just one of nine different rain-making projects the UAE has been testing since 2017. Other projects include dropping chemicals such as salt into clouds to boost precipitation. 

While rain is welcome in a country that receives only four inches per year on average (compare that to 33 inches in the U.K., or 45 inches on average in Washington, D.C.), some feel the government needs to do more testing to perfect the process. 

The Official UAE Weather Instagram account shared videos of monsoon-style rainfall flooding roads, which caused visibility issues and created other difficult driving conditions. Cloud seeding can also cause the metro and lower floors of buildings to flood, because most real estate is not built with rain in mind. 

The UAE celebrates Eid Al Adha this week and residents have been warned to expect severe weather. 

Rebecca Holland

Rebecca Holland is a travel and food writer based in Chicago. She has written for the Guardian, New York Times, Architectural Digest, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast and more. She is currently a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. When not working, you can find her eating her way through Chicago's neighborhoods, or in non-pandemic times, traveling around the world.