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The main lobby within the Science Dome. Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A brand new facility — the Science Dome — has been opened in Abu Dhabi today to create better awareness of weather phenomena, geophysics and climate change.

Located at the headquarters of the UAE’s national weather bureau — the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) — the facility in Al Shawamekh will offer visitors a four-dimensional immersive experience. A 12-metre dome will screen interactive videos for young scientists, students and other visitors, including films about the birth of planet Earth, its volcanoes, and the science behind cloud seeding, one of the UAE’s major climate initiatives.

“We are pleased to inaugurate this innovative scientific project. It is part of the NCM’s efforts to employ modern technologies that provide accurate services and information on weather forecasting, cloud seeding operations and other related fields for both specialists and students,” said Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, NCM director and president of the Regional Association II (Asia).

Complex weather system

NCM not only records and disseminates information about the weather in the UAE and the region, but has also carried out vital cloud seeding operations to enhance rainfall in the UAE. Its activities have generated much interest in recent years, and it is this enthusiasm that the Science Dome hopes to build on. “The UAE has a complex weather system; it is not all just blue skies and hot weather. In fact, there is summer rainfall happening every day, even in the month of July, over the Northern Emirates,” Omar Al Yazeedi, NMC director of research, development and training, told Gulf News. “We would like to create better understanding of these systems, especially among youth, and seeing the phenomena being depicted in a four-dimensional manner will make it even clearer. In addition, understanding cloud seeding and its role in rain enhancement should also help create awareness about its role in global warming,” he added.

Advanced features

The dome has been installed by experts from London, and can accommodate up to 60 people. It also has room for People of Determination, and offers a 160-degree view. Among the four-dimensional effects that accompany screenings are heat, wind, fog and tremors. The facility is also connected to two media server solutions that provide real-time atmospheric weather modelling and weather simulations.

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One of the gadgets on display at the Science dome. Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

In the first phase, the NCM will entertain groups of students enrolled in schools and universities. “We hope to eventually open the dome to the general public once COVID-19 precautions are further eased,” Al Yazeedi said.

Rain enhancement science

“In recent years, we have seen growing interest in the UAE’s weather. Many people closely following our weather updates, and some even contact us to ask where in the UAE they can go to experience some rain. Our goal with this Science Dome is to enhance this understanding, especially given the UAE’s integral role in rain enhancement science,” he added.

The UAE first began rain enhancement in 1990, with the NCM spearheading efforts in recent years. In 2016, the weather bureau launched the International Research Programme in Rain Enhancement Science, with more than 370 research proposals submitted over three cycles. Awarded projects study a range of aspects related to rain enhancement, including innovative cloud seeding materials, and the identification of suitable cloud types.

In addition, the UAE now has more than 60 networked weather stations, as well as an integrated radar network, and five specialised aircraft for seeding operations. It also has the first factory to produce high-quality flares in the region.