When Mother Nature is still king

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

As a year’s worth of rain lets loose in Dubai, flash floods caused roads to turn into rivers and gushing waters overwhelmed many homes and businesses in just 24 hours. Even its airport, being the second busiest in the world, was reported to be under water, with aircraft looking more like boats making their way through deep waters.

Dubai is said to receive only 3.12 inches of rain per year, making rainfall infrequent, hence one can only imagine how massive this event has been. For those who are stuck at the airport, many have expressed that there is literally nowhere for them to go. Some motorists were also reported to have abandoned their vehicles as the floodwaters continued to rise.

This scenario is not exactly great for a city that is in the desert considering the norm, not to mention most roads are not built with drainage and tanker trucks that were seen pumping away the water were causing this to unfortunately affect some homes. Apart from this, massive sink holes were also said to be opening up. More rain is allegedly expected to be coming in the next few days… or not, as some others also expressed since “the morning after” scenario has also shown signs of improvement, with the weather forecast back up to 30 degrees.

Regardless of how fast things will begin to clear, the fact remains that human-driven climate change will never escape Mother Nature’s wrath, considering the earth’s atmosphere, regardless of the usual cloud seeding in the area. It has been said that nearly all of Dubai’s infrastructure could be under water by 2100, which would make this city’s elaborate infrastructure the shortest lived in all of human history.

This incident alone has sparked a lot of worry about the escalating impact of climate change. In 1982, the UAE first tested cloud seeding and by the early 2000’s, the artificial rain program in the Gulf was reported to have been reinforced by collaborative scientific and technical research with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado, Witwatersrand University in South Africa and NASA, with the aim to identify an effective agent to stimulate cloud growth and ultimately augment rainfall. This was the UAE’s innovative approach to combat its water crisis. Yet, despite the potential benefits of cloud seeding, many concerns were raised on its environmental impact, including the safety of the seeding agents used.

Strangely, however, with regard to this most recent event, experts were reported to have said that the rainwater was actually associated with a larger storm system traversing through the Arabian Peninsula and moving across the Gulf of Oman that is unusually bringing wet weather to neighboring Oman and southern-eastern Iran.

Notably, a report by CNBC stated that the National Center of Meteorology (NCM), a government task force responsible for cloud seeding missions in the United Arab Emirates, denied reports that it carried out the weather modification technique (cloud seeding) which led to heavy storms across the country, causing the aggravated flooding in places like Dubai, and that it did not dispatch any pilots prior to or during the storm that hit the UAE last Tuesday.

So what could have been the reason for this sudden surge of rain? While the NCM did track the incoming rainfall, they did not find any clouds during that period, hence, this was all a matter of natural occurrence. Basically, a flood is an overflow of water onto land that is normally dry and severe flooding is caused by atmospheric conditions that lead to heavy rain. Geography is also a factor, making some areas more prone to flooding.

Rain is quite uncommon in the UAE as it is an arid region and it only occurs periodically in the cooler months. This explains why many areas (such as Dubai) lack drainage. Perhaps one can recall the biggest disaster that has ever hit Dubai was the crashing of an international passenger flight – Emirates flight 521 – but it seems that this particular incident might be a turning point in terms of natural disasters as this has been a record-breaking incident in 75 years.

It is also good to point out that, clearly, and as explained by some experts, while cloud seeding is common in the United Arab Emirates, a very severe storm would not develop out of it as it would be rather aimless to seed clouds that would most likely produce a downpour. In the end, man-made systems have been developed over time to create proactive solutions to improve their resilience to environmental conditions. However, no matter how extraordinary these solutions may be, when it comes to Mother Nature, she is always speaking.

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