What are Seeding Flights?

28 February 2018

Lab Chat

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) boasts a very hot, dry and humid climate. With aims to combat desertification and drought, scientists are now turning towards seeding flights. But, what are these and how can they help with rainfall? Read on as we look at the process of precipitation enhancement with seeding.

Soaring seeding

Average rainfall in the UAE is around 120mm a year, compared to an average of 885mm in the UK. This means that, with threats to water supplies, scientists must find ways to modify the weather in favour of rainfall.

This research has led them to seeding flights, which involves flying an aircraft to release flares into the base of clouds. These flares contain potassium chloride, sodium chloride and magnesium. The aim? A specific chemical mixture will improve the production of water vapour so that heavy droplets form in the clouds to produce rain.

Salt crystal flares are theoretically helpful for water vapour condensing and increasing the size of water droplets. But, to be clear, this process doesn’t create fake rain – it attempts to enhance rainfall.

The scientific backing

As droughts can cause significant issues in the UAE, funding has been given into research surrounding this area. The Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science have created new methods of improving seeding techniques.

The National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) have also encouraged rain research. Their focus is on understanding local climates, collating information of the temperature, humidity and precipitation. This is important to calculate rain-bearing clouds and clean atmosphere conditions.

Are flights successful?

According to UAE national weather centre, seeding flights can boost rainfall by up to 35% in clean conditions. But with significant pressure on the UAE to produce sustainable methods of water supply, it is important to not underestimate figures. It’s reported that globally 1.6 billion people live in conditions with water shortages and that by 2025 this is set to increase to 2.8 billion.

With these dry climates struggling, it is no wonder scientists are trying to find alternatives. For example, South Africa’s second largest city is under severe drought warnings. With risks to the entire water supply, Cape Town is one of the many cities rocked by significant shifts of climate change.

Battling drought is difficult, but with new research emerging everyday the hope is that processes like seeding flights will being to improve conditions. Let’s hope there is more rain to come for countries in need.

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