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Saturday, 19 February 2011

Have scientists discovered how to create downpours in the desert?

It used to be a joke to say that a good salesman can sell oil to the Arabs. That said, how amazing is it to find that now the Arabs themselves have invented a way to create downpours in the desert?

In an area with billions of square acres, the dessert is not known to be the most hospitable place to live. Moreover the locals have been trying to come up with ways for centuries of changing the barren soil and making it fertile enough to grow vegetables. In a world where food prices are increasing year on year leading to food shortages, this has to be a good idea.

The recent reports show that the ruler of Abu Dhabi now claims to have generated a series of downpours. In fact, fifty rainstorms were created last year in the state's eastern Al Ain region using technology designed to control the weather.

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Most of the storms were at the height of the summer in July and August when there is no rain at all. People living in Abu Dhabi were baffled by the rainfall which sometimes turned into hail and included gales and lightening. The scientists have been working secretly for United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They have been using giant ionisers, shaped like stripped down lampshades on steel poles, to generate fields of negatively charged particles. These promote cloud formation and researchers hoped they could then produce rain.

In a confidential company video, the founder of the Swiss company in charge of the project, Metro Systems International, boasted of success. Helmut Fluhrer said: 'We have achieved a number of rainfalls.'It is believed to be the first time the system has produced rain from clear skies, according to the Sunday Times.

In the past, China and other countries have used chemicals for cloud-seeding to both induce and prevent rain falling. Last June Metro Systems built five ionising sites each with 20 emitters which can send trillions of cloud-forming ions into the atmosphere. Over four summer months the emitters were switched on when the required atmospheric level of humidity reached 30 per cent or more.

While the country's weather experts predicted no clouds or rain in the Al Ain region, rain fell on FIFTY-TWO occasions. The project was monitored by the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, one of the world's major centres for atmospheric physics.

Professor Hartmut Grassl, a former institute director, said: "There are many applications. One is getting water into a dry area. Maybe this is a most important point for mankind."

And who could argue with that?

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