Saudi Chief of Staff attends Dragon Group meeting in UK

JEDDAH: To meet rising demand for fresh water in Saudi Arabia, officials have launched a project that will change the composition of clouds to increase rainfall, a technique known as “cloud seeding”.

With a long-term average rainfall of less than 100 mm per year, a growing population and a growing agricultural sector, Saudi Arabia is in dire need of fresh water. This is why the Kingdom launched the first phase of a cloud seeding program aimed at changing the amount and type of rainfall in the country in early April.

After the plan was approved by the Saudi government, a plane took off over the vast rocky plateau of Najd in the central region of the kingdom, where it released heaps of silver iodide into the clouds. This led to the formation of ice crystals in these clouds, which brought rain to the target areas. The process has begun in the Riyadh region and will soon spread to other regions, as far as Asir, Baha and Taif.

“The state is considered one of the rainiest countries, receiving an average of 100 mm of rain per year,” Ayman Ghulam, director general of the National Meteorological Center, told a conference in Riyadh in March. “Cloud seeding is one of the most promising solutions for Saudi Arabia.”

The National Artificial Rainfall Program is expected to continue for five years, giving a 20% increase in rainfall. It is part of the Saudi Green Initiative, which was launched in March 2021 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to promote sustainable development and environmental protection as well as secure natural water sources in the Kingdom.

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Roulof Bruntjes, head of the weather modification group at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, said Kingdom Cloud uses a well-established method of seeding that is safe for the environment.

The two seeding agents used in Saudi operations are hygroscopic materials (i.e. substances that absorb moisture from the air) such as salts and silver iodide. They are used in such low concentrations that they are largely undetectable and have been used in cloud seeding projects in the drought-prone western United States for nearly forty years.

The success of a cloud seeding operation, Bruntjes said, depends in part on the characteristics of the clouds. “No cloud is the same as another”, he explains Arab News.

“In Saudi Arabia, most of the clouds that form in the central and southwestern region are of the more convective cloud type. In this way, we mainly use hygroscopic cells to form large droplets so that they can more easily collide with each other and prevent rain, in order to obtain more water, which is processed into the cloud up to the surface. happens,” he explains.

Water covers about 71% of the Earth’s surface, but the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has very few of these resources needed for life. According to the United Nations, it is the world’s most water-scarce region, with 17 countries considered below the water poverty line.

Rapid population growth, inadequate infrastructure and over-exploitation of limited resources have made the situation worse. According to the World Bank, about 80% of water consumption in the MENA region comes from agriculture alone.

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