Unique initiative sets the pace in advancing research in an emerging field of science and technology
Dubai, UAE, January 15, 2018: With global water security posing an increasingly urgent challenge, an international effort is underway to seek new ways of replenishing potable ground water and increasing existing water reserves.
The scale of the problem is illustrated by the World Health Organization's estimate that at present, 844 million people lack access to a basic drinking water service and that half of the world's population could live in water-stressed areas by 2025.
Unlocking the potential of scientific and technological innovation holds the key to sustainable water security. As part of the global efforts in this direction, the UAE has launched an initiative that has drawn international attention for its original approach to harnessing the creativity of leading researchers working in fields related to climate phenomena and water management issues.
The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, launched under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, offers a US$5 million grant to encourage scientists and researchers to explore new horizons in developing rain enhancement science and technology.
Managed by the UAE's National Center of Meteorology (NCM), the Program is overseeing a diverse range of international research projects aiming to advance knowledge of rain enhancement through building and leveraging global networks to support collaborative innovation.
Speaking on the UAE initiative, Dr Deon Terblanche, Director of the Atmospheric Research and Environment Department at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said: “Rain enhancement is gaining increasing international attention, with 56 countries conducting weather modification programs as of 2016. The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science has taken decisive steps to drive the progress of research in the field.”
As a specialized agency of the United Nations since 1950 with 191 member states and territories, WMO is taking a close interest in the UAE program as part of its mission to foster collaborative study and monitoring of the Earth's atmosphere, the interaction of climate with land and oceans, and the consequences these processes have for the world's water resources.
Through its Expert Committee on Weather Modification Research, WMO seeks to promote scientific practices in weather modification and provide guidance to WMO member countries interested in embarking on such activities.
His Excellency Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director of NCM, said: “Through its productive collaboration with WMO, NCM is working to ensure that the UAE Research Program on Rain Enhancement Science can lead innovation as a means of tackling the climate change and water security challenges that are placing vulnerable populations around the world at risk. The Program's significant global impact is evident from the fact that over its three cycles, we have received submissions from 1,220 researchers representing 520 institutions from 68 countries.”
Due to the Program's success in building networked capacity and supporting some of the most creative original ideas in the field, ground-breaking work by its awardees across a varied range of research fields is well underway. One project supported by the Program already filed a provisional patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in February 2017 for a new application of nanotechnology to cloud seeding.
Other researchers are developing innovative algorithms using various types of remote sensors to find and track clouds suitable for seeding and most likely to offer a higher rain yield, and employing sophisticated instrumented aircraft and radar technology to assess the potential of leveraging ice production processes in clouds to increase precipitation.
Additional sophisticated projects include the use of advanced radar and LIDAR technology to measure aerosol-cloud interactions, the study of convergence zones induced by complex atmospheric flows, and the research of the effect of land cover modification on the occurrence of rainfall. One of the most novel methods under development within the framework of the Program involves the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to artificially modify the electrical properties of clouds.
Dr Terblanche said: “NCM provides first-class logistical support, local data and expertise for the benefit of the research projects that are part of the Program. In ensuring the individual researchers can fully explore the potential of their ideas while encouraging productive collaboration between the awardees and other international experts working in the field, the Program is setting a commendable example of how such initiatives should be managed.”
Building on the Program's substantial achievements to date, three new research projects will be announced at an awards ceremony held on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) on January 17, 2018 at the Emirates Palace. The announcement represents the culmination of an intensely competitive selection process that involved 201 submissions from 710 scientists and researchers affiliated to 316 institutions from 68 countries.
During ADSW, the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science will also hold its Second International Forum on Rain Enhancement Science. Providing a platform for discussion on the Program's research projects, the event will convene leading international experts covering the entire spectrum of research and innovation related to boosting global water security.
His Excellency Dr Al Mandous said: “ADSW allows us to highlight the significant progress we have made in developing new rain enhancement methods that can benefit not only the UAE but also other regions that are at a risk of water stress. In driving international efforts to enhance water security through promoting best practices in science and effective research collaboration, the Program is helping fulfill the UAE leadership's vision of positioning the country as a leading global knowledge economy.”
Honoring the Third Cycle awardees of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science represents another milestone for the initiative that has galvanized the interest of the global scientific community.
Through taking the lead in seeking solutions to the global water security challenge, the UAE has demonstrated the potential of its innovators to leverage the latest advancements in science and technology for the benefit of mankind.