For a country like UAE (United Arab Emirates) where it rain's less than 4 inches a year, water is extremely precious. And with the planet continuing to warm due to man made climate change, Dubai's answer is to fight it with man made rainfall by shocking clouds from drones with lasers....I kid you not!
The idea of Pluviculture - artificial rainfall or cloud seeding - isn't new, but researchers from the University of Reading have built four drones that have sensors to analyse the contents of clouds. The drones with a wing span of under two metres are catapulted into the air in search of clouds with the correct temperature, humidity and electrical charge. When they find them, the drones send out a jolt of electricity - a bit like fake lightning - to encourage the small rain droplets to stick together. Once heavy enough these larger droplets will then fall to the earth as rain.
It's the size of the drops which is so important. Smaller water droplets just never reach the ground as they evaporate on their way to the surface as the air below the cloud is so dry and hot.
This technique of zapping clouds is thought to be less damaging to the environment, where previous versions of cloud seeding release small particles - often silver sulphate - into the atmosphere aiding rainfall. Small particles, known as condensation nuclei are at the the centre of every raindrop. If you were to hold a raindrop and remove all the water, you'd find a small spec of dust. It's these particles that allow the raindrop to form as the water has something to condense around. By artificially increasing these minute particles in clouds from aircraft, its thought that this would encourage clouds to precipitate.
In July UAE’s National Center of Meteorology shared a video on Twitter showing a successful result from the Pluviculture demonstration by posting this video.
There's mixed ideas about this research as it's still unknown how far the impacts of tampering with the earths natural processes could lead to knock-on-effects later down the line.