One thing about the United Arab Emirates is that they like to think big - whether it's building the world's tallest structure, the 2,716-foot-tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper, or dredging 90 million square feet of rock, soil and sand to create the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island archipelago whose fronds can be seen from space. It's the sort of place where they put an indoor ski slope inside a apartment tower so massive that it will provide homes for 78,000 people.
But even those supersized projects may be dwarfed by what reportedly may be the UAE’s next really big thing, an artificial mountain, large enough to alter weather patterns and increase rainfall, according to Arabian Business.
The UAE is currently in the first stage of a man-made mountain development project as the country mulls different approaches to maximising rainfall.
Experts from the US-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are in the “detailed modelling study” phase, NCAR scientist and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes toldArabian Business.
“What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be,” said Bruintjes. “We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step.”
In collaboration with the National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS), the UCAR received a fund of $400,000 in February last year to propose a “detailed modelling study evaluating the effects of building a mountain on the weather”.
The presence of mountains forces air to rise, creating clouds that can then be seeded, Bruintjes said.
Cloud seeding, a weather modification process designed to increase the amount of rainfall produced from clouds, has a permanent unit at the NCMS’s meteorological department, which conducts operations across the UAE.
The department recently revealed $558,000 was spent on UAE cloud-seeding last year.
“Building a mountain is not a simple thing,” added Bruintjes. “We are still busy finalising assimilation, so we are doing a spread of all kinds of heights, widths and locations [as we simultaneously] look at the local climatology.”
The specific location has not yet been determined as the NCAR experts are still testing out different sites across the UAE.
“If [the project] is too expensive for [the government], logically the project won’t go through, but this gives them an idea of what kind of alternatives there are for the long-term future,” Bruintjes said. “If it goes through, the second phase would be to go to an engineering company and decide whether it is possible or not.”
Mountains play an important role in influencing global and regional climates and weather conditions. By intercepting the global circulation of air, they have a decisive effect on wind, precipitation and temperature patterns, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2011 report.