Electric shocks for clouds could make it rain in the Middle East
Release Date 18 January 2017
Clouds could be given a helpful jolt of electric charge to increase much-needed rainfall in dry parts of the world, thanks to an award-winning research proposal by scientists at the University of Reading.
The new study will investigate how charge modifies the growth of tiny water droplets into larger drops that fall as rain. It will use a supercomputer to simulate the cloud processes in detail, with specially developed robotic aircraft to sample and charge the clouds.
On Tuesday, the Reading team was one of three groups awarded funding in this year’s US $5-million-dollar United Arab Emirates (UAE) Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 17 January. Reading will receive US $1.5m.
“This programme is intended to bring blue-sky thinking to cloud and rain, to develop new ideas on weather modification."
Professor Giles Harrison, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, who attended the ceremony with Professor Ben Cosh, Head of School, said “Our project is about changing the balance of charges on the tiniest cloud droplets, a neglected aspect of clouds which could revolutionise our ability to manipulate rainfall in areas that need it most.
“This programme is intended to bring blue-sky thinking to cloud and rain, to develop new ideas on weather modification.
“The UAE’s programme is ambitious and imaginative, and has already brought many international scientists together on this important topic.”
The research proposal was based on work published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in May 2015. It explains how the charging the edge of clouds would increase the number of collisions between droplets, and help them merge together.
Also selected to receive funding from a list of 91 global scientific proposals were two other research groups, in the US and Finland respectively. The grant will be provided over a three-year period.
The Rain Enhancement Science program was launched to address water security challenges in arid regions in the Middle East and beyond, and placing the UAE at the forefront of rain enhancement research.
His Excellency Ahmed Juma Al Zaabi, Deputy Minister of Presidential Affairs in the United Arab Emirates and Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology, said: “The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science reflects the UAE Leadership’s determination to encourage and support the transformative and bold thinking needed to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.
“These innovative proposals honoured by the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science Awards have the potential to further boost UAE’s breakthroughs in research and development.”
The awards ceremony was part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2017. The program is an initiative by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs and is overseen by the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology.
Dr Paul Lawson, from the US, was also given the award to support his work investigating ways to increase ice production in cumulus clouds.
Professor Hannele Korhonen, from Finland, was given the award to support her project examining the role of aerosols in rain enhancement.
Full reference to Professor Harrison's research:
R. G. Harrison, K. A. Nicoll and M. H. P. Ambaum (2015). ‘On the microphysical effects of observed cloud edge charging’. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. DOI:10.1002/qj.2554