Can The UAE Make It Rain With A Man-Made Mountain?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is making plans to build a man-made mountain in an effort to boost rainfall in the region, according to Newsweek.

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The country, which is located at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, is known for being affluent with high rise tennis courts and ATMs that dispense gold bars a common site, but it seems the people also take in abundance when it comes to water.

According to the Federal Water and Electricity Authority, the average UAE resident uses 550 liters of water per day, this is almost double the international average of 170 to 300 liters a day. This excessive use of water has led to scientists scrambling for a way to make more rain.

Rain is scarce in the UAE and this combined with the higher-than-average water consumption is what is driving the project. Typically it rains just a handful of days each year in the UAE, and during the summer, there is often no rainfall at all. Some years the UAE has not received more than five-inches of rainfall according to the Washington Post. To put this into perspective, Washington records on average 40-inches of rainfall per year.

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The reasoning behind the man-made mountain is that it will force air to rise, cool, condense, and form clouds, resulting in rainfall. This process is known as cloud-seeding, but cloud-seeding does not always go to plan. In March, the UAE had record rainfalls and a meteorologist with the nation’s forecaster said that a cloud-seeding operation is to blame.

“This amount usually would not even be recorded in one year,” he said.

The region saw over 11-inches of rainfall pour down between Dubai and Al Ain in under 24 hours, the highest level since officials began record keeping in 1977.

Roelof Bruintjes, an expert in weather modification programs at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), told Arabian Business that discussions about the man-made mountain are still in the early stages with issues such as the width and height still being discussed.

“What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be…We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step.”

The U.S.-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) received $400,000 of funding in February, 2015, for research for the artificial mountain, and scientists from its NCAR are in the early stages of the unusual project.

“Building a mountain is not a simple thing. If [the project] is too expensive for [the government], logically the project won’t go through, but this gives them an idea of what kind of alternatives there are for the long-term future. If it goes through, the second phase would be to go to an engineering company and decide whether it is possible or not,” Bruintjes said.

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Building a man-made mountain has been a long time coming for the UAE as people across the dry country have been campaigning for the past few years for more cloud-seeding projects to be created. Arabian Business reported that around $558,000 has been spent on 186 cloud-seeding missions across the UAE last year, but still not enough rain is falling. This is where the man-made mountain comes into play.

The lack of rainfall could be due to the lack of mountains in the area. The UAE does have some mountains in the far northern part of the country, but only a small percentage of the population lives there. Most people flock to the cities where big projects are popular. The UAE boasts the world’s tallest structure, the 2,716-foot-tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper, and an artificial island archipelago, which can be seen from space. The island has an indoor ski slope and an apartment tower that can house 78,000 people, according to News Discovery.

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Creating a man-made mountain is a daunting project even for a country that specializes in big and expensive. One proposal for a 1.2-mile-high mountain was $230 billion, and this was for one created in the notoriously flat Netherlands, and for a hollow mountain. The UAE has already spent $400,000 investigating the idea, and Bruintjes said that the eventual cost of the project may be too much for even the UAE the justify.

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Due to the high cost, and many other complications that comes with building a mountain, the UAE is still searching for other ways to get more water. Another project already in effect is distillation. The UAE has created huge desalination plants to turn seawater into fresh water. Other ideas, which are perhaps more ambitious than building a mountain, are to build a pipeline from Pakistan to the UAE, or to capture icebergs floating down from the Arctic.

[Photo via Wikipedia]