Dubai Grapples with Unprecedented Rainfall; Airport Operations Halted

Dubai faced unprecedented rainfall on Tuesday, causing significant disruptions across the desert city, including flooding on major highways and its international airport. Operations at Dubai airport came to a halt for 25 minutes in the afternoon due to the deluge before resuming.

Social media platforms were flooded with visuals depicting planes navigating through waterlogged runways at the airport. According to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport, the city experienced rainfall equivalent to a year and a half’s average within just 24 hours.

The downpour commenced late Monday, drenching Dubai with approximately 20 millimetres (0.79 inches) of rain, saturating its sands and road networks. The intensity of the rain escalated on Tuesday, resulting in over 142 millimetres (5.59 inches) of rainfall by day’s end. In comparison, Dubai International Airport typically receives an annual average of 94.7 millimetres (3.73 inches) of rain.

In anticipation of the heavy rainfall, the UAE government issued precautionary advisories, urging residents to remain indoors except for essential purposes. Subsequently, it mandated remote work for all federal employees until Wednesday.

The rainfall engulfing Dubai is part of a larger storm system traversing the Arabian Peninsula and progressing across the Gulf of Oman. This weather phenomenon has also brought unusually wet conditions to neighbouring Oman and southeastern Iran, leading to flooding that claimed at least 18 lives.

Climate experts, including Friederike Otto from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, underscored the role of climate change in exacerbating extreme weather events like the torrential rain in Dubai and Oman. Otto emphasised that human-induced climate change likely intensified the severity of the rainfall.

Additionally, cloud seeding, a weather modification technique, contributed to the heavy rains in Dubai. Initiated in 2002 to address water scarcity concerns, cloud seeding involves dispersing chemicals and particles into clouds to stimulate rainfall. Ahmed Habib, a specialist meteorologist, revealed that seeding operations were conducted over the past two days to enhance cloud activity in the UAE.

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