Last month, the strangest thing happened.
Tim had taken the children to school as usual and phoned me to tell me that it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. "Strange", we both thought - most notably because it was May and we live in the desert with no rain at this time of year. I looked out of the window and indeed, the weather was very cloudy, but I was about 15km away from Tim at this point, but having nothing better to do that morning, I decided to keep a look out.
About 15 minutes later, I could see that the sky was getting very stormy and the wind was whipping up a storm. I went outside - got an eyeful of sand and to my surprise, I also felt huge spots of rain . . . . . but because of the wind and where we live in the desert, I was feeling great splodges of wet sand land on me. Delightful. It didn't last particularly long though - maybe about ten minutes in total.
I took these photos to show you how the visibility changed - you could be forgiven for thinking this is mist, but it's pure sandy rain!
The following day on the radio, I heard the guy talking about "artificial rain". Now, this guy is normally a bit of a joker, so I did a double take on the date to make sure it wasn't April Fool's Day. It wasn't, so I decided to get on-line!
Imagine my surprise when I read - officially in the Gulf papers - that the UAE was experimenting for the first time in the history of the region - with artificial rain! It was true!
Using the latest technology, the rainmaking effort brought moderate rain. According to experts, artificial rainfall will help plants grow, increase the level in reservoirs, and add water to the barren soil in the country. Although it has rained much more frequently this year, the precipitation remains below average.
In the rainmaking operation last week, experts allegedly used a hydrogen bomb. According to scientists, the plastic hydrogen bomb uses electricity to break apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Then, it uses a spark of electricity to explosively recombine the gases into a high pressure steam, which propels a stream of water high into the air.
In the UAE and several countries of the region, there are often clouds, but no rain. This is because of a phenomenon called supercooling. The temperature of the cloud might be close to zero and there might even be crystals of ice in it. The water vapour in the cloud does not condense into liquid water. The super cooling gets disturbed by spraying the cloud with special substances, using a small plane for the purpose.
I understand, since doing my research, that "cloud seeding" is relatively common, with Australia, the US and China being advocates of the process. Personally, I had never heard of it before, but given that the water table in this region is reducing at an alarming rate, maybe it's the thing to do . . . . . not quite sure how environmental it is though . . . !