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Floods in the United Arab Emirates

Floods in the United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

last update:

2 months ago

Problems

  • Floods in the United Arab Emirates

    The UAE has an arid climate with less than 100mm per year of rainfall, a high evaporation rate of surface water, and a low groundwater recharge rate. Rainfall in the UAE has fluctuated over the last few decades during the winter season between December and March.
    
    The climate of the UAE is very dry, aside from the coast and the border between the UAE and Oman, where there is high humidity. There is little to no rainfall, due to frontal systems from the west and northwest, which yields few inches of rainfall per year. This lack of rainfall has scientists and the government worried about water security in the future.
    
    Cities at the foothills of mountains in the UAE are more exposed to flash floods. 
    In arid regions, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the risk of floods is not that high, but there has been an expansion of such risk into new areas in cities that have become impermeable due to paving. Less infiltration, poor absorption, less vegetation, more runoff. 
    
    Record rains inundated the United Arab Emirates and surrounding countries on April 16, 2024, bringing air travel to a standstill in Dubai.
    
    Dubai typically records around five inches of rain in a year. The deluge that fell by on April 16, 2024 evening alone equaled that amount.
    
    For the United Arab Emirates, it was the largest rainfall event in 75 years, the country’s National Center of Meteorology and the government announced on social media.
    
    Due to human-driven climate change, torrential rainfall events like this will become more frequent. As the atmosphere continues to warm, it can soak up more moisture like a towel and then ring it out in the form of more extreme gushes of flooding rainfall.
  • Cloud seeding causes floods

    Some media reports suggested the rains may have been made worse by cloud seeding, a common practice in the dry Emirates to encourage clouds to produce precipitation by releasing salt particles into the air, often using planes. The salt released in cloud-seeding operations helps water droplets to form, increasing the chance of rain.
    
    Cloud seeding is increasing the amount of rain produced by the clouds above, designed to improve water shortage issues in arid regions around the emirate. 
    
    Due to industrialization and population growth, the water demand has rapidly increased. Current resources are being depleted and scarcity issues are arising. As a result, the UAE is looking to use cloud seeding technologies to increase water security and renewability to combat water and food scarcity that may arise.
    
    Hygroscopic cloud seeding uses natural salts such as potassium chloride and sodium chloride that pre-exist in the atmosphere with hygroscopic flares. Introducing Hygroscopic particles enhances the natural rain particles, which begins a collision-coalescence process.
    
    Currently, the UAE mostly clouds seeds in the eastern mountains on the border to Oman to raise levels in aquifers and reservoirs. 
    
    Cloud seeding missions require firing salts and silver iodide crystals into the atmosphere. The increased concentration of particulate matter, or micro-pollutants, increases the risk for respiratory illnesses.
    
    A study called the UAE Unified Aerosol Experiment (UAE2) was conducted to assess the progress and effectiveness of cloud seeding specifically in the UAE. 
    
    Researchers found a significant increase in rainfall trends in areas with cloud seeding. More recently, over 20 regions in the UAE that participated in cloud seeding experiments have a higher concentration of particulate matter. The overall environmental impact of cloud seeding is difficult to measure due to the inability to perform controlled experiments and the difficulty in direct tracing.

Timelines

2024

April 24

The UAE health ministry announced that a small number of people have shown symptoms of illnesses caused by water contamination following severe rain and flooding. 

This report, released by the state news agency, did not detail how many were affected or the specific treatments administered. 

Following record-breaking rainfall that flooded several neighborhoods, authorities and medical professionals have cautioned residents to steer clear of standing water. Health advisories following the rainfall have also included guidance on how to protect oneself from mosquitoes.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) warned residents to stay away from stagnant water to avoid contamination risks. 

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) has issued recommendations for residents to manage water accumulation following recent heavy rains. They advise draining any standing water, securing entrances, and installing window screens to keep mosquitoes out. Additionally, wearing long-sleeved clothing and using mosquito-repellent creams are suggested to further prevent mosquito bites.

April 16

Heavy rains have hit the United Arab Emirates, flooding highways and disrupting flights at one of the world’s busiest airports. 

“The UAE witnessed the largest rainfall during the past 75 years. The Khatm al-Shakla area in (city of) Al Ain witnessed 254.8 mm of precipitation in less than 24 hours, thus marking an exceptional event in the country’s climatic history,” the National Center of Meteorology (NCM).

City records more than 142mm of rain in a day, about as much as it expects in a year and a half, as highways and malls flooded

Nearly 4 inches (100 mm) of rain fell over just 12 hours, according to weather observations at the airport – around what Dubai usually records in an entire year, according to United Nations data.

The rain fell so heavily and quickly that some motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles as the floodwater rose and roads turned into rivers.

Schools were shut across the UAE. Dubai’s government extended remote work to its employees.

The rain that plunged Dubai underwater is associated with a larger storm system traversing the Arabian Peninsula and moving across the Gulf of Oman. This system also brings unusually wet weather to nearby Oman and southeastern Iran.

2022

July 27

Heavy rains caused floods in the United Arab Emirates. The heavy rains affected cities of the northern Emirates, mainly Kalba and Fujairah, and different areas of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. 

According to the Emirati National Center for Meteorology, this was the country's heaviest rainfall recorded in 27 years.

Rainfall activity in the UAE was below normal, according to the NCM report. That year, the UAE received a total mean of 56.2 mm, the fifth lowest recorded in the last 20 years.

It was also the driest year on record, with the country’s annual total rainfall in deficit, compared with the long-term average (2003-2022), according to the NCM.

The northeastern UAE received more than 200 mm of rain, whereas the remaining areas (south-central parts) witnessed below 90 mm.

2020

January

Parts of the UAE experienced heavy rainfall, leading to localized flooding in various areas, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 
The flooding disrupted traffic, caused delays, and necessitated clean-up efforts.

Pumps were needed to remove excess water because drainage systems could not handle the volume of water, severely impacting commercial and residential areas.

Flood resulted from a cloud seeding experiment conducted in 2019 by the UAE National Center of Meteorology & Seismology as part of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science. 

According to the National Center of Meteorology (NCM), as of Sunday, January 12, 2020, the highest amount of rain from January 9 to 12 was 190.4 mm (7.5 inches) in Al Shakla, Al Ain. One fatality was also reported in Ras Al Khaima.

The eastern region of the UAE recorded the heaviest amount of rain between Thursday, January 9, and Sunday morning, January 12, particularly in Mazayd with 172.4 mm (6.78 inches), Damtha with 172.2 mm (6.77 inches), Al Foah with 156.8 mm (6.17 inches), and Falaj Al Mualla with 152 mm (5.98 inches).

The last time the country saw such huge amounts of rain was 24 years ago in Khor Fakkan.

2019

October

The UAE tests of new technologies were done with partners in the United States to test the use of nanomaterials for seeding.

2015

The UAE government developed a research program called the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP).

It allows scientists and researchers to pitch their potential solutions and conduct research to improve the accuracy of cloud seeding technology. 

The Program for Rain Enhancement Science is an initiative of the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Presidential Affairs. It is overseen by the UAE National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS) based in Abu Dhabi.

2008

November

Heavy rainfall caused flash floods, leading to the evacuation of residents from affected areas. Particularly affecting the city of Al Ain. 

The flooding damaged homes, roads, and other infrastructure, prompting emergency response efforts.

2004

March

One of the most notable flood events in recent UAE history occurred. Heavy rain hit various parts of the country, causing flash floods in Dubai, Sharjah, and other emirates. 

The flooding significantly damaged infrastructure, including roads, buildings, and vehicles. This event highlighted the vulnerability of the UAE to extreme weather events.

2001

By early 2001, the UAEREP was conducting research projects in cooperation with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the U.S., the Witwatersrand University in South Africa, and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) in the U.S.

2000

The UAE partnered with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and NASA to set up the methodology for the cloud seeding program.

The government introduced a task force called The National Center of Meteorology (NCM) in Abu Dhabi where more than 1,000 hours of cloud seeding is performed each year to enhance rainfall.

1996

The highest rainfall record.
In Khor Fakkan, there is 144 mm (5.66 inches) of accumulated rainfall. 

1990

The cloud-seeding program in the UAE was initiated in the late 1990s, and it is one of the first Middle Eastern countries to utilize this technique.

1949

The UAE, as a unified country, did not exist in its present form in 1949. The region consisted of separate emirates with varying degrees of administrative structure.
High rain levels were recorded in the region.
In 1949, it began its climate data records.

1940

Scientists have been experimenting with cloud seeding technology since the 1940s.

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