Iran's officials have been concerned for years that other nations have taken away one of their water sources. It wasn't an upstream dam that they were worried about.

Senior officials concluded that someone was stealing their water in the midst of a hot and dry year.

A senior official in the country's Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a speech that Israel and another country were trying to make Iranian clouds not rain.

The unnamed country started an ambitious cloud-seeding program, injecting chemicals into clouds to try and force precipitation. The real purpose of these efforts is not to steal water, but to make it rain on arid lands.

As the Middle East and North Africa dry up, countries in the region have begun a race to develop the chemicals and techniques that they hope will allow them to squeeze rain drops out of clouds.

With 12 of the 19 regional countries average less than 10 inches of rain a year, their governments are desperate for any increment of fresh water, and cloud seeding is seen as a quick way to tackle the problem.

ImageThe tawny mountain range that rises above Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates is where summer updrafts often create clouds that make excellent candidates for seeding.
The tawny mountain range that rises above Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates is where summer updrafts often create clouds that make excellent candidates for seeding.
A ground crew for the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology equipping an aircraft with the hygroscopic flares that release seeding material into the clouds.

As wealthy countries pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the effort, other nations are joining the race, trying to ensure that they don't miss out on their fair share of rain before other countries do.

Iran has a cloud-seeding program. A number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa are considering a large-scale program by Saudi Arabia.

China has the most ambitious program in the world, with the goal of either stimulating rain or stopping hail. It is trying to get the clouds to fall over the river.

The science of cloud seeding hasn't been proven. They don't like the idea of one country draining clouds dry at the expense of other countries.

The life span of a cloud is usually less than a couple of hours. Sometimes clouds can last longer, but rarely long enough to reach another country, even in the Persian Gulf, where seven countries are jammed together.

The “Surreal” water attraction at the Dubai Expo 2020 featuring a 360-degree, 14-meter-high wall of cascading water.
Dubai’s Miracle Garden claims to be the largest in the world, with more than 150 million water-sipping flowers.

Several Middle Eastern countries brushed aside the doubts of the experts and are moving ahead with their plans to get some rain.

The United Arab Emirate is the unquestioned leader. In order to maintain its status as the financial and business capital of the Persian Gulf, the country needed a plentiful supply of water as much as it needed oil and gas.

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When the population was less than 100,000 in 1960, there wasn't enough water to sustain it. The demand for water went up. The world average is 47 gallons per person per day, but the United Arabs use roughly 147 gallons per person per day.

Desalination plants are currently able to meet that demand. When compared with cloud seeding, each facility costs $1 billion or more to build and requires a lot of energy to run.

The center has been researching and experimenting for 20 years. As soon as the country's mountainous regions see a promising weather formation, nine pilots are ready to bolt into the sky.

The desert outside Dhaid, United Arab Emirates. Desertification is a growing problem in the Middle East, which is trending ever hotter and drier.
A staff member at the Emirates’ National Center of Meteorology and Seismology monitoring current and historical radar data on cloud movements in the region.

In the Middle East, promising clouds are not as common as in other parts of the world, so they have to be prepared.

It takes a senior cloud-seeding pilot 25 minutes to be airborne after arriving in South Africa. The center will send more than one plane in the event of multiple clouds.

The traditional material made of silver iodide and a newly patented substance developed at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi that uses nanotechnology is better adapted to the hot, dry conditions in the Persian gulf. The seeding materials are injected into the base of the cloud by the pilots.

The seeding material bonds to the water vapor particles in the cloud. Scientists say that the combined particle attracts more water vapor particles until they form droplets which eventually become heavy enough to fall as rain.

Pilots with the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology are on 24-hour alert to bolt into the sky should a cloud ripe for seeding appear.
Releasing experimental nanomaterial in a cloud-seeding demonstration in the Emirates. The technology has never been proved to work, though proponents say new techniques are reaping better results.

It's in theory. Many in the scientific community don't think cloud seeding works. The inability to document net increases in rainfall is a major stumbling block for many atmospheric scientists.

Alan Robock is an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University and an expert in evaluating climate engineering strategies.

Roy Rasmussen, a senior scientist and expert in cloud physics at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, said that it was difficult to determine if the seeding had any effect on the tall clouds.

Israel, a pioneer in cloud seeding, stopped its program in 2021. One of the most comprehensive studies of the program was done by Pinhas Alpert, a professor at the University of Tel Aviv.

A roadside produce vendor selling mostly imported fruits and vegetables along the side of a road in the Emirates, where water-intensive crops are not widely grown.
There had been enough water to sustain the U.A.E.’s population in 1960, when there were fewer than 100,000 people. By 2020, the population had ballooned to nearly 10 million, and the demand for water soared.

General Electric scientists were hired by the military in 1947 to find a way to de-ice planes in cold weather and create fog to obscure troop movements. In order to make it harder for the North Vietnamese to supply their troops, some of the techniques were used in Vietnam.

There are a lot of problems with cloud seeding. Even a cloud seemingly suitable for seeding may not have enough rain potential. Raindrops can evaporate before they reach the ground.

Sometimes the effect of seeding can be bigger than anticipated. The possibility of "unintended consequences" can be raised if the winds shift and carry the clouds away from where the seeding was done.

James Fleming is an atmospheric scientist at Colby College in Maine.

The Netherlands’ exhibition on sustainable water vapor harvesting and agriculture at the Dubai Expo 2020.
Even as officials in the emirates scramble to seed clouds to make rain, water is used freely at events like Brazil’s pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020.

It could be snow, or it could be dissipated. He said that it could cause a storm in Boston if it goes downstream.

Water had to be pumped out of flooded neighborhoods and the upscale mall in the summer of 2019?

Despite the difficulties of gathering data on the efficacy of cloud seeding, Mr. Al Mandous said the methods were yielding at least a 5 percent increase in rain each year. He acknowledged that more data was needed to satisfy the scientific community.

Hygroscopic flares burning during a demonstration on Hatta Mountain.
Salah Hamadi, 63, at his small farm in the deserts of Sharjah. Mr. Hamadi helps to monitor a weather station there for the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology.

A storm that produced over six inches of rain in three days on New Year's weekend was caused by cloud seeding.

He is always optimistic in the tradition of scientists who have tried to change the weather. He said that if the emirates had more clouds to seed, they might make more rain for the country.

The extra clouds would come from somewhere.

Clouds are very difficult to make. Someone will have the idea of how to make clouds.

Emirates officials are not relying entirely on cloud seeding for future water supplies. They are hoping that the Raffish Dam’s reservoir, in addition to providing recreational activities, will help recharge ground water stores.