Fri 12-01-2018 16:15 PM

Second cycle awardees of UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science set to bring their work to fruition

ABU DHABI, 12th January 2018 (WAM) - It is estimated that nearly three billion people across the globe are currently affected by water shortages. The dramatic scale of the problem is underscored by the fact that one out of six people in the world today does not have regular access to clean drinking water.

As one of the many potential answers to this pressing sustainability challenge, the UAE has launched an initiative that stands out for its unique and innovative approach to enhancing water security.

The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, launched under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, offers a US$5 million grant to encourage scientists and researchers to explore new horizons in developing rain enhancement science and technology.

Managed by the National Center of Meteorology (NCM), the Program seeks to advance rain enhancement research both locally and internationally through fostering scientific and technological innovation and building the networking capacity needed for effective global research collaborations.

Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director of NCM, said: "As our country has a very arid climate, we are keenly aware of the need to utilize our resources and capacities for innovation to secure the sustainable supply of clean water needed for our development. We are determined to develop rain enhancement as a viable and cost-effective tool that can benefit not only our own country but also other arid regions subject to the threat of water stress."

Due to the success of the Program, its First Cycle Awardees are already carrying out ground-breaking work on precipitation enhancement in arid regions and beyond, the use of nanotechnology to accelerate water condensation, and cloud seeding optimization based on the study of convergence zones and land cover modification to enhance precipitation.

2017 has also seen the launch of three other projects employing creative approaches to the study of weather-related phenomena and methods of enhancing rainfall.

One of these is being led by Dr Paul Lawson, who founded SPEC, a company that manufactures state-of-the-art airborne cloud physics instruments, in 1979, and is renowned for his participation in over 50 international research projects related to weather phenomena.

Dr Lawson’s project investigates a new approach to rain enhancement that leverages ice production processes in cumulus clouds. Employing sophisticated instrumented aircraft and radar technology, the project explores the potential for seeding in the updraft at cloud base with material that facilitates the development of large drops.

The US team has acquired a Learjet research aircraft and installed carefully calibrated measurement probes and sensors with the intention of conducting flights from Al Ain Airport in July 2018. Dual polarimetric radar data from NCM has been analyzed to determine the best times and locations for the field project work to be carried out.

Dr Lawson said: "We look forward to building on our previous research and experiments to enhance our knowledge of unique local conditions. These investigations, combined with effective radar tracking, could give us a better picture of the determination of convective clouds with base temperatures and drop size distributions that may be conducive to hygroscopic seeding and rainfall enhancement in the UAE. The excellent support we have received from NCM and opportunities to share our research work with other international experts through the Program have been particularly beneficial in developing our research agenda to date."

Another Second Cycle awardee, Professor Hannele Korhonen from Finland, is Climate Modelling Research Professor and Head of the Atmospheric and Ocean Modelling Group at the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI). With over 16 years of experience in the research of atmospheric aerosols as well as cloud and precipitation interactions, her expertise covers artificial cloud modification for geo-engineering purposes and advanced statistical methods for complicated atmospheric models.

Entitled Optimization of Aerosol Seeding in Rain Enhancement Strategies (OASIS), her project applies a multidisciplinary approach to comprehensively quantify the role of atmospheric aerosols in precipitation enhancement. The research is carried out by FMI, the University of Helsinki and Tampere University of Technology.

Aimed at advancing the fundamental scientific understanding and providing practical guidance for future field exploration, the OASIS project employs simulations with highly advanced aerosol microphysics, quantum chemical calculations and innovative statistical approaches.

Professor Korhonen said: "Overall, we are pleased with the project’s progress so far, with all the main scientific activities on the experimental as well as the model side having started on schedule or slightly ahead of schedule. We are confident that our one-year measurement campaign in the UAE will yield data that will provide very interesting insights and inform our simulations."

The Finnish team carried out a site survey in February 2017 in Sharjah. Subject to the survey being confirmed, the team will install LIDAR and measurement equipment to gather field data to complement satellite data from MODIS and AERONET platforms and MISR data currently being processed. The team intends to use the field data to simulate aerosol-cloud interactions and their rainfall enhancement effects during 12 identified weather events.

Professor Korhonen added: "NCM has very generously assisted us in our operational campaign. I am grateful to the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science for its role in developing the international research agenda for understanding and enhancing rainfall."

Professor Giles Harrison, the third awardee of the Second Cycle, is Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading. His research work focuses on atmospheric electricity, aerosol cloud physics, solar-climate interactions and scientific sensor development. He has authored and co-authored over 160 papers in internationally refereed journals and a postgraduate textbook on meteorological instruments.

Entitled Electrical Aspects of Rain Generation, Professor Harrison’s project investigates the electrical properties of clouds through a combination of theoretical and experimental work to model the growth of charged drops to raindrops, and measure and modify the charges present in clouds using balloons and aircraft. An innovative aspect is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to artificially modify the electrical properties of clouds.

Speaking on the project, Professor Harrison said: "Deepening our knowledge of electrical charges could create the scope needed to enhance rainfall without using artificial seeding substances and while minimizing environmental impacts through the use of drone technology."

His team conducted site surveys in the Al Ain area in April 2017 to identify suitable areas for instrument positioning, balloon launching and UAV flights. Once the installation of technical measurement equipment onsite has been completed, the gathering of field data will commence in early 2019. The project will also employ numerical modeling based on demonstration codes and associated visualization software for electrical modification of droplet interaction codes subject to their performance in the field.

Professor Harrison added: "The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science has had a real impact in terms of forming international scientific networks and enabling creative exchange of ideas needed to help advance this scientific field."

Reflecting the Program’s outstanding success to date, the latest Third Cycle call for research proposals in 2017 led to 201 pre-proposal submissions from 710 scientists and researchers affiliated with 316 institutions from 68 countries on five continents. The significant level of interest evident from these figures testifies to the importance of the Program and reaffirms its status as a truly global initiative.

The forthcoming Third Annual Award Ceremony of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science in Abu Dhabi will see the announcement of a new batch of awardees expected to maintain the research momentum driven so successfully by the UAE.

Honoring these outstanding researchers will further validate the tremendous success of the initiative that harnesses the innovative capabilities of the global scientific community. In serving as a focal point for international efforts to enhance water security through promoting best practices in science and effective research collaboration, the UAE is making great strides in positioning itself as a leading global knowledge economy.

WAM/Hassan Bashir