Updated April 17th, 2024 at 14:18 IST

From Sand to Floods: Understanding the Science Behind Dubai's Rare Deluge

The downpour, which began late Monday and intensified through Tuesday, brought the bustling metropolis to a standstill.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Dubai Rain: Schools Shut, Airport Flooded, Cars Under Water | Image:X

Dubai, renowned for its arid desert landscape and towering skyscrapers, found itself grappling with an unexpected deluge on Tuesday as heavy rainfall inundated the city, causing widespread flooding and disrupting normal life. The downpour, which began late Monday and intensified through Tuesday, brought the bustling metropolis to a standstill, flooding major highways, residential areas, and even the international airport.

According to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport, the city received a staggering amount of rainfall within a mere 24-hour period, equivalent to what it typically receives in a year and a half. Initial reports indicated that the rains dumped around 20 millimetres on Monday, followed by a relentless downpour on Tuesday that resulted in more than 142 millimetres of rainfall by day's end—far surpassing the city's annual average of 94.7 millimetres.


Social media is filled with visuals of the flood

Social media platforms were flooded with visuals showcasing the surreal sight of Dubai Airport's runways submerged in water, with planes navigating through the unexpected aquatic terrain. Operations at the airport were temporarily halted for 25 minutes on Tuesday afternoon before resuming, but the images of flooded runways highlighted the severity of the situation.


The cause of this unusual weather phenomenon can be traced back to a larger storm system sweeping across the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf of Oman, according to a report from CNN . This same system has brought heavy rains to neighboring Oman and southeastern Iran, claiming at least 18 lives in recent days due to flooding.

Climate change also played a role?

While natural weather patterns play a significant role, experts have also pointed to human-induced climate change as a contributing factor in the intensity of the rainfall. Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, emphasized the likelihood of climate change exacerbating extreme weather events like the ones witnessed in Dubai and Oman.

"It is highly likely that the deadly and destructive rain in Oman and Dubai was made heavier by human-caused climate change," Otto stated, underscoring the urgent need for climate action to mitigate such impacts in the future.


Did cloud seeding contribute to heavy rainfall?

Additionally, Bloomberg reported that cloud seeding—a weather modification technique aimed at enhancing precipitation—may have played a role in amplifying the rainfall. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been employing cloud seeding since 2002 as part of its efforts to address water security concerns. Ahmed Habib, a specialist meteorologist, revealed that seeding planes conducted multiple missions over the past two days to maximize rainfall from suitable clouds.


Despite the challenges posed by the unprecedented rainfall, the UAE government took proactive measures by issuing warnings ahead of the inclement weather and encouraging residents to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. Remote working arrangements were also implemented for federal employees until the situation stabilized.

As Dubai grapples with the aftermath of the flooding, the event serves as a stark reminder of the complex interplay between natural weather phenomena, human activity, and climate change—a pressing issue that demands collective action and adaptation strategies to mitigate future risks.


Published April 17th, 2024 at 14:18 IST