We have been trying to “create” rain for years: sounds like a joke, but it’s not

We have been trying to
We have been trying to "create" rain for years: sounds like a joke, but it's not

The United Arab Emirates wants to build a mountain to attract rain to their country. Yes, as you read it. With 8 million inhabitants in the desert, supplying the entire population with water is a vital priority. And the long-term solution they have devised is to build a mountain.

It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. They are so serious that they have hired Roelof Bruintjes, one of the researchers from the Department of Hydrometeorology at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Colorado, to carry out a feasibility study of the project, from a meteorological point of view, of course.

If the mountain does not come to Muhammad … we built it

“It’s a desert, there are no clouds and I can not do anything for you,” Roelof Bruintjes told the emirates of the Emirates in 1999. However, since February 2015, after financing of $ 400,000, he is developing with his team a virtual model to determine the location, shape, orientation and ideal height so that the artificial mountain can effectively attract rain depending on the weather of the area.

Why a mountain? In theory, the mountain would force the very humid air of the region to rise and thus cool down, forming clouds in the country’s sky – and in that of its neighbors. In turn, these clouds could be planted to cause rain.

How can we create rain?

Building a mountain out of nothing to create clouds is just the latest idea to cause rain where there is none. In fact, the idea of the mountain by itself does not work without the only method recognized today to cause rain: that of the planting of clouds.

Cloud seeding involves manipulating the climate by trying to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from the clouds by dispersing substances in the air. The most common method is that a plane drops silver iodide, dry ice or a mixture of water and salt over the clouds. Rockets are also used to send these substances into the clouds.

What consequences can this have?

For some it will be a good idea, for others it will be another example of the arrogance of the country, but beyond the financial cost that building a mountain might have, if it ever happens, one may wonder if it is ethical to alter the climate of an area for its own benefit without taking into account the neighboring countries.

The Emirates have already spent $ 558,000 in 2015 on 186 cloud planting missions to cause rain in the country. And everything indicates that they will continue along this path, since 1 m3 of water from a desalination plant costs 60 dollars, while that same cubic meter of water obtained from the planting of clouds costs 1 dollar.

The intention is laudable, but this alteration of the climate of the human hand can have unexpected consequences in the own country that uses them. For example, the November 2009 snowfall in Beijing – which lasted 11 hours – has been caused by the country’s own government. To counteract the drought in the northern fields, the Chinese government launched 186 rockets to sow the clouds and cause rainfall. They caused the earliest and most intense snowfall of the last 10 years over the capital. Being China and its control of information, it is not clear if they really wanted to cause such snowfall on the capital, they got out of hand or if so much snow had fallen anyway.

The creation of a mountain or the sowing of clouds at all costs is a very serious environmental problem. Not only because it can alter in an irreversible and unpredictable way a climate already quite sick, but because they demonstrate the will to attack the symptoms and not the disease.

Is there an alternative?

In China, Hongjiannao Lake is evaporating at an accelerated rate since 2009. The lake has been disappearing since the 1970s, but since 2009 one third has disappeared. In 1969, it had 67 km2 and in 2009 it measured 46 km2. In 2013, it had no more than 32 km2. The state and the Chinese Communist Party, which own the land, are limited to meeting the demand and thus supply the nearby coal mines in lake water. Of course, climate change does not help, and although measures could be taken to preserve water, improve or create irrigation systems for the fields, China has opted to create rain.

Returning to the UAE and its mountain. These went from having a population of just over 557,000 souls in 1975 to about 8.2 million in 2010. And the growth was not natural, since in 1995 there were already 2.4 million inhabitants and since 2005, there were 1 million more people each year who settled in the Emirates. In the middle of the desert, so many people and both golf courses have serious consequences on water resources. The government has already built several water desalination plants, but that is not enough.

And it is that an inhabitant of the Emirates uses an average of 550 liters of water per day, while the international average is between 170 and 300 liters per day. Remember that in the Emirates there are more than 8 million people and the demand for water in the region, according to the Al Jazeera Study Center, grew by 140%. They really need water and they do not have it.

In California, they also need water, but have opted for a different method. Faced with the drought, the state government imposed in 2015 some restrictions of use reminding everyone that water is a scarce resource and that it must be used rationally. In this way it was achieved that the following year the consumption of water dropped by 23.9%.