New weather forecasting will help us prepare for extreme conditions, says UAE expert

    26 Aug 2023

    As the world grapples with climate change, a high-resolution model that can more accurately predict extreme weather will be crucial in improving the resilience of vulnerable countries, the UAE’s senior meteorologist has said.

    The proposed model would offer definitive predictions for weather such flash floods, tropical storms, tornadoes, rising sea levels, glacial changes and convective clouds, said Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, president of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

    He said expanding the UAE’s successful rain enhancement programme to other countries in the Middle East region would help improve groundwater levels.

    In an exclusive interview with The National, Dr Al Mandous, who is also the director general of the UAE’s National Centre of Meteorology (NCM), said the emirates had a vital role in pushing for Early Warning For All (EW4ALL), a UN-led initiative to ensure people all over the world have access to early warnings regarding weather, water or climate hazards by the end of 2027.

    It is jointly led by WMO and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction to help low-income countries to tackle climate change.

    “With the UAE holding the WMO presidency and also hosting Cop28 this year, we can do a lot to bring countries together and fast-track the implementation [of EW4ALL],” said Dr Al Mandous, who was elected president of the WMO in June, becoming the first GCC meteorologist to hold the position.

    WMO functions as the UN’s authoritative body on weather, climate, hydrological and related environmental fields.

    Dr Al Mandous said his priority was to strengthen early warning systems for all regions, addressing the shortage of funding and lack of monitoring stations.

    The Global Commission on Adaptation said giving 24 hours’ notice of an impending hazardous event could reduce damage by 30 per cent.

    Investing $800 million in such systems in developing countries would prevent losses of $3 billion to $16 billion annually.

    Dr Al Mandous said the high-resolution climate model – separate to EW4ALL – would give more accurate weather forecasts.

    “This is the top of state-of-the-art science. The existing climate models operate at a 50-kilometre resolution, limiting their accuracy,” he said.

    “The higher resolution model that has a 1km resolution would provide more accurate data, enabling better identification and understanding of small-scale phenomena.

    “This advancement is crucial as it would allow tracking and analysis of thunderstorms, tropical storms and other extreme events with greater precision.

    “The high-resolution model would enhance the ability to assess changes in such phenomena over time, offering valuable insights into their patterns and trends.”

    The WMO has already identified an initial batch of 30 countries to accelerate the move, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Nepal, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Somalia and South Sudan.

    Changing conditions

    In the UAE, Dr Al Mandous said the introduction of the high-resolution model would help with predicting severe weather such as the flash floods in the Northern Emirates last year, when seven people lost their lives.

    According to WMO, extreme weather and climate-related conditions have killed more than two million people and led to economic losses of $4.3 trillion in the past five decades.

    In July, many countries recorded their hottest summer since the 19th century, with North America, Europe and Asia struggling with record-breaking temperatures.

    In Bada Dafas in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region, the mercury climbed to 50.1°C.

    Dr Al Mandous emphasised the need to address the lack of data in numerous countries and highlighted the WMO’s commitment to data-sharing.

    “What we need are comprehensive studies on past extreme weather events to understand their impacts,” he said.

    “WMO’s goal is to establish global monitoring systems while collaborating with individual countries to address these challenges collectively.”

    Dr Al Mandous said weather monitoring played a pivotal role in ensuring water security across the Middle East.

    “We are investing a lot in this and I am keen to enhance co-operation among agencies and governments in the region,” he said.

    The pressing issue of depleting water levels looms large over the Middle East, underscoring the urgency for collective action.

    He said the UAE’s rain enhancement scheme, which is conducted through cloud-seeding, was among the projects that would help boost the region’s groundwater levels.

    “We recognise the need for expanded cloud-seeding initiatives and heightened research efforts,” he said.

    “Our goal is to advance the scientific understanding in this area and our commitment to this cause is unwavering.

    “We have allocated substantial budgets both within the UAE and beyond to support these projects. We hope someday we can make clouds and produce more rain.”


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