Electric shocks for clouds make it possible to rain in the Middle East

Thanks to the award-winning research proposal by scientists at the University of Reading, it is now possible for rain to fall in dry parts of the world.


The new study investigates how electric charges modify the growth of tiny water droplets into larger drops that will fall as rain. A robotic aircraft had been specially developed in order to sample and charge the clouds while the cloud processes will be stimulated in detail by a supercomputer.


The Reading team was one of three groups that was 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 a funding of US $1.5m.


Professor Giles Harrison, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, also attended the ceremony with the Head of School, Professor Ben Cosh. Professor Harrison mentioned that the project could revolutionise humans’ ability to manipulate rainfall in areas that need it most. This programme is intended to bring blue-sky thinking to cloud and rain, and to develop new ideas on weather modification.


The UAE’s programme, which is ambitious and imaginative, has already brought many international scientists together on this important topic.


The research proposal was based on the work published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in May 2015. It explains how charging the edge of clouds would increase the number of collisions between water droplets, helping them merge together.


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 that the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science reflects the UAE Leadership’s determination in encouraging and supporting the transformative and bold thinking that is needed to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.


These innovative proposals honoured by the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science Awards will 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. It is an initiative by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs and is overseen by the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology.



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

Yi Wen Lee

Year 2 International Business and Finance student.

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