Cloud-seeding plan aims to increase rainfall in Saudi Arabia by 20 percent

The ministry said the cloud-seeding program targets specific types of clouds, using their physical properties to stimulate rainfall. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Cloud-seeding plan aims to increase rainfall in Saudi Arabia by 20 percent

  • The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said the program was developed after a review of global practices and visits to other countries in the region
  • The Kingdom is one of the world’s most arid countries, with less than 100 millimeters of rainfall a year

RIYADH: The Saudi cabinet has approved a cloud-seeding program that aims to increase rainfall in the Kingdom by almost 20 percent.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said the program was developed after a review of global practices and visits to other countries in the region to study their experiences of cloud seeding. It is a response to the growing pressure placed on water resources by population growth, in addition to significant growth in the industrial, energy, transportation, mining and agricultural sectors, where demand for water has almost reached 24 billion cubic meters a year.

The Kingdom is one of the world’s most arid countries, with less than 100 millimeters of rainfall a year. Almost 2.7 billion cubic meters of seawater are desalinated each year, but about 80 to 85 percent of the Kingdom’s demand is met by groundwater sources. This rate of extraction is greater than the rate of replacement, given the low rainfall.

The ministry said the cloud-seeding program targets specific types of clouds, using their physical properties to stimulate rainfall. Catalysts are sown, some of which are natural, in these clouds to release the largest possible amount of water. The ministry stressed that cloud-seeding does not create clouds; instead, it increases rainfall by providing cloud condensation nuclei.

The Kingdom began studying cloud seeding in 1976 in partnership with the World Meteorological Organization. An agreement was signed with the University of Wyoming, in the US, to conduct the first cloud-seeding experiments, which took place in Asir in 1990. The experiments have continued in the Kingdom’s central regions, specifically Riyadh, Qassim and Hail, as well as the northwest and southwest, with the participation of a group of specialist Saudi scientists. The results proved that the clouds have seeding potential.


Saudi Arabia isolates neighborhoods in Jeddah governorate to fight coronavirus

Updated 05 April 2020

Saudi Arabia isolates neighborhoods in Jeddah governorate to fight coronavirus

  • Entrance to and exit from these seven neighborhoods in the Jeddah governorate is forbidden
  • Several national entities partner to launch COVID-19 research grant

JEDDAH: The Saudi Interior Ministry imposed a 24-hour curfew on seven neighborhoods in Jeddah governorate on Saturday as an additional measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The neighborhoods are: Kilo 14 South, Kilo 14 North, Al-Mahjar, Ghulail, Al-Qurayyat, Kilo 13, and Petromin. Entry and exit to these areas are forbidden. Residents can only leave their homes for health care and food needs during the period from 6:00 am to 3:00pm.

Meanwhile, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has announced an open application period for its new research grant program to support the Kingdom’s scientific efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

The fast-track program to support research into the coronavirus is aimed at providing support to institutions to develop detection and monitoring mechanisms in an accurate, fast and economical manner.

Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Malik, executive director for the Life Science and Environment Research Institute at KACST, told a press conference on Saturday that the grant would provide direct financial support to scientists in research centers and universities around the country.

“The program will focus on developing diagnostic and serological tests for the virus and support epidemiological surveys, artificial intelligence systems and active genetic surveillance for the new virus,” Al-Malik said.

“KACST will also allow the grant awardees to use its laboratories around the country whenever they need it,” he said.

Al-Malik is inviting researchers interested in COVID-19-related work to submit their proposals at the portal (https://covid19.kacst.edu.sa/grants/) between April 4 to 20. Winners will be announced ten days after the deadline.

The initiative was launched in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Saudi Health Council and the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Health Ministry has announced 140 new COVID-19 cases, two of which are related to travel, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,179 with 1,730 of them still active cases.

While the number of recoveries increased to 420, four new deaths were announced, three of whom were non-Saudis, increasing total deaths to 29.

During the department’s daily conference, Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly clarified that the bodies of those who died of COVID-19 were bathed and shrouded according to Islamic tradition by trained health practitioners or under the ministry’s supervision to ensure everybody’s safety.

“Their dignity is maintained from the moment they pass away until burial . . . after completing all these procedures (bathing and shrouding) under our supervision, the body no longer carries the infection.”

The ministry advises people to get their information from official sources and has dedicated a web page for updates about disease numbers in the Kingdom (covid19.moh.gov.sa).