An NCM researcher makes final checks on a cloud seeding flare on a plane for the new project Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), through the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP), announced a field campaign to investigate the performance of different cloud seeding materials with and without electric charge.

Titled ‘Cloud-Aerosol-Electrical Interactions for Rainfall Enhancement Experiment (CLOUDIX)’, the innovative research drive will be conducted out of Al Ain International Airport in collaboration with Stratton Park Engineering Company (SPEC), a US-based company specialising in cloud physics research and instrumentation.

What will be tested?

The campaign includes a series of coordinated flight missions that will cover the UAE airspace and parts of Oman. These missions will utilise NCM’s cloud seeding aircraft and an instrumented research Learjet aircraft operated by SPEC, which was the recipient of UAEREP’s Fourth Cycle grant for its pioneering research project titled ‘Improving the chemical and physical properties of seeding materials through electric charges’.

Weather officials with the aircraft used in the research Image Credit: Supplied

As part of the campaign, the SPEC research aircraft will gather initial measurements of cloud microphysical properties and electrical characteristics at various altitudes within a convective cloud target amenable to seeding. Subsequently, the NCM aircraft will conduct cloud seeding on the same measured cloud by using one of the following seeding approaches: nanomaterial (N), large salt particles (L), and conventional hygroscopic (H) flares, both with and without electric charging (NC, LC, and HC).

These seeding methods will be investigated across multiple stages involving diverse cloud targets. Following the seeding, the Learjet aircraft will re-measure the cloud to observe an active natural secondary ice nucleation process at high altitudes, up to some 25,000 feet. This process directly contributes to amplifying cloud seeding effects and increased rainfall.

Water security goals

Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, President of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and Director-General of NCM, said: “This research campaign demonstrates NCM’s active role in promoting innovative research in areas related to national priorities including water security.”

He added: “At NCM, we are committed to empowering the local talent and ensuring their active engagement in the development of new technologies that increase rainfall for the benefit of future generations at risk of water shortage. Such efforts strengthen the UAE’s prominent role in addressing water sustainability challenges, particularly as the country is gearing up to host COP28 in November.”

The campaign will also aim to train specialised personnel at NCM to conduct cloud physics research and analyse data from optical array probes and scattering probes aboard the research aircraft.

Ahmad Al Kamali, Rain Operations Executor at NCM, will play a crucial role in this campaign, focusing primarily on the electric charge emitter, which he developed as part of his research with the University of Reading in the UK. His efforts will ensure the functionality of the charge delivery and sensing mechanisms before any flight is undertaken. Additionally, Al Kamali will continue to collaborate with experts from the University of Reading to analyse data obtained from aircraft sensors and probes, aiming to observe possible variations in cloud droplet size distribution following the release of charge.

Alya Al Mazroui, Director of UAEREP, said: “Through this innovative research campaign, UAEREP is engaged in conducting important field experiments to examine the findings of the Fourth Cycle awardee project that aims to improve the chemical and physical properties of seeding materials through electric charges. The campaign will also bolster UAEREP’s endeavour to attract local talent to stimulate the growth and deployment of new rain enhancement technologies.”

Dr Paul Lawson, Senior Research Scientist at SPEC, said: “At SPEC, we continue our strategic collaboration with NCM and the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science to study the development of innovative solutions that improve the efficiency of cloud seeding operations.”

He added: “We feel that such innovative scientific research holds promising potential to enhance the well-being of communities. This research campaign is also testament to the profound potential for rain enhancement science in achieving water security and building a sustainable future.”