COULD hot countries control the weather to make it rain?
That’s the question being asked by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where a harsh climate means only around 10cm of rain falls in a year, mainly in winter.
The UAE is one of the hottest countries on the planet – with daily summer temperatures over 40oC – and it needs more fresh water. It is now experimenting with using catapults to launch drones into clouds. The job of the drones is to zap droplets in the clouds with an electric charge to try to make it rain.
A team of scientists from the UK’s University of Reading came up with the idea in 2017. Dr Keri Nicoll, one of the key scientists, said they found that when cloud droplets were zapped with an electrical charge, the smaller droplets were more likely to join together and grow to become big raindrops.
The size of the raindrops is important, says Dr Nicoll, because in places like the UAE, which has high clouds and high temperatures, droplets often evaporate as they fall.
“What we are trying to do is to make the droplets inside the clouds big enough so that when they fall out of the cloud, they survive down to the surface,” says Nicoll. To test out the theory, Nicoll and her team joined up with the University of Bath to build four 2m-wide aircraft with charge emitters to zap the clouds.
They carried out early testing in the UK and Finland but now the experiment is being completed in Dubai. As climate change causes the planet to heat up, causing droughts in some places and floods in others, there is a growing interest in how to control the weather.
The WWF charity says two-thirds of the world’s people could face water shortages by 2025. Other countries like China and America are also funding science projects to see if they can change the weather.
However, there are questions over whether increasing rain in one place might take precious water away from somewhere else.
What do you think?