Water in a pool near Wadi Khutwa at the foothills of the Hajar mountains. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Has the UAE fallen victim to yet another instance of international media making a mountain out of a molehill?

Newspapers and television news presenters are reporting that the UAE is building a massive man-made mountain that will trap moisture-laden air, push it into the atmosphere where it will condense and then fall as rain on an arid desert.

The theory is loosely based on what is called a rain shadow in which one side of a mountain traps moist air while another side of the ridge doesn’t.

But no UAE official or agency has confirmed the existence of any concrete plan to geoengineer a mountain.

Five years after Holland nixed the idea to build an artificial €200 billion (Dh837.76 billion) mountain as cost-prohibitive, American atmospheric scientists have confirmed that they are now simply gathering data on the atmospheric effects a similar mountain in the dry deserts of the UAE could yield.

Amid the media hype, the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) — the US agency doing preliminary research on the feasibility of the idea — is downplaying the idea of actually building a mountain, noting it is too early to speculate on any concrete outcomes for such a geoengineering project.

NCAR scientist and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes told Gulf News from NCAR headquarters in the US that nothing is firm “because this research is still ongoing, we do not have any results”.

In the UAE, a spokesman for the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology told Gulf News that he didn’t have any information to share about the project either.

Some media organisations have inaccurately attributed massive amounts of recent rainfall solely to cloud seeding by the UAE’s NCMS and suggested that if a UAE mountain were built, the very wet spring experienced of late in the Emirates could be created once again.

Not likely, if you ask global weather experts.

While cloud seeding helps create some rainfall from heavy clouds as is the case every year in the UAE, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the major anomalies in the weather this spring, including vast amounts of precipitation, were due to El Nino’s change in sea-surface temperature, as first reported in Gulf News in September 2015.

Such weather anomalies that swamped the Arab Peninsula this year with major rain events are rare and cycle by decades and are not likely to return to the region any time soon, according to WMO advisories last year.

As for mountains, the UAE already experiences cooler temperatures in the Al Hajar mountain range on the eastern coast.

By some estimates, areas within the Al Hajar mountains receive up to 350mm of rain annually compared to only 120mm in drier inland areas of the UAE.