Forecasters in the UAE are studying whether electricity could enhance rainfall during cloud-seeding operations.
The National Center of Meteorology is teaming up with experts from the UK for the study, which will use drones to deliver an electric charge to air molecules.
Moisture in clouds naturally carries an electric charge.
By altering the size of the charges, water droplets could potentially be made to grow more quickly, making them merge together to produce rain.
It will be tested first on clear days and later, once conditions allow, during light fog when the presence of dust is expected to result in more highly charged conditions.
“Our project aims to evaluate the importance of charge in affecting the cloud droplet size distribution and rainfall generation through modifying the behaviour of droplets and particles and studying the microphysical and electric properties of fog events,” said Giles Harrison, professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Reading in the UK, who is leading the study.
The technology was developed and tested in the UK and Finland.
Traditional cloud-seeding methods involve aeroplanes firing salt-crystal flares into the clouds.
As the cloud sucks up the crystals they attract tiny particles of water that collide and become heavier. The water then falls as rain.
Tall masts, ground-based structures about 10 metres tall, could be a means of delivering a larger charge into clouds, and even low-lying fog.