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UAE receiving more rainfall over past two decades, finds study

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Heavy rain that results in flash flooding in the UAE has become longer-lasting over the past two decades, a study by local researchers have found.

The research at Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi and the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) indicates these events in the southeastern Arabian peninsula “may be even more impactful in a warming world.”

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While the risk of flooding is ever present during such wet spells, on the other hand such events also offer opportunities in a country where precipitation is limited.

In a study recently published in the journal Atmospheric Research, scientists looked at mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), a weather pattern that most commonly causes severe weather in the months of March or April.

They analysed 95 of these between 2000 and 2020, and found they were caused by particular wind patterns and moisture coming from the Arabian Sea, Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea.

Looking at the data from observation as well as from satellites, they found that, over time, these events over the UAE were lasting longer.

The year 2016 saw some of the most severe episodes when there was heavy flooding following more than 240mm of rain in Dubai. Abu Dhabi also experienced winds of nearly 80mph.

One of the authors of the study Dr. Diana Francis, who is also the head of the environmental and geophysical sciences laboratory at Khalifa University, pointed to global warming and climate change as the key factors for the increased frequency of heavy rain in the Emirates.

According to Dr. Diana Francis, a warmer atmosphere could hold more water vapor, meaning extreme events last longer. She said the recently published report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report also identifies “an intensification of the global water cycle due to increased warming.”

While predicting more rain in the UAE in future, Dr. Francis points out the benefits too for a country like the UAE where the average rainfall annually is less than 100mm.

Through planning for rain water storage and modern water evacuation plans in the cities, the UAE can both avert flood havoc and benefit from copious amounts of precipitation, she says.

Read more: UN climate change report set to be ‘starkest warning yet’: COP26 chief