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How Cloud Seeding Works and Why It’s Wrongly Blamed for Floods From Dubai to California

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image of car in deep water in front of skyline due to flooding

TIME, April 2024

In a place as dry as the desert city of Dubai, whenever they can get rain, they’ll take it. United Arab Emirates authorities will often even try to make it rain—as they did earlier this week when the National Center of Meteorology dispatched planes to inject chemicals into the clouds to try to coax some showering.

But this time they got much more than they wanted. Dubai faced torrential downpours on Tuesday, with flooding shutting down much of the city, including schools and its major airport—killing at least one man whose car was swept away as well as at least 18 others in neighboring Oman, including a bus full of schoolchildren.

The UAE government media office said it was the heaviest rainfall recorded in 75 years and called it “an exceptional event.” More than a typical year’s worth of water was dumped on the country in a single day. Now, many people are pointing a finger at the “cloud seeding” operations preceding the precipitation.

“Do you think the Dubai floods might have something to do with this?” popular social media account Wide Awake Media asked on X, alongside a clip of a news report on the UAE’s weather modification program. But experts say that while cloud seeding may have enhanced the rainfall, pinning such a devastating downpour on it is misguided.

“It is very unlikely that cloud seeding would cause a flood,” Roslyn Prinsley, the head of disaster solutions at the Australian National University Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, tells TIME, describing such claims as “conspiracy theories.” It’s not the first time cloud seeding has been blamed for floods—in Dubai and around the world. In February, social media users charged officials working on a cloud seeding pilot program in California with causing storms that hit the state, despite the technology not even being used before the storms in question. And in Australia in 2022, as the nation down under experienced record rainfall, social media users recirculated an old news clip that questioned if there was a link between cloud seeding and flooding—to which fact-checkers answered: there isn’t.

Read more at TIME.

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