What Is Behind the Excessive Rain and Flooding in Dubai?

Flooding rains closed Dubai's schools and government offices in April 2024.

Lauren Wellbank - Author
By

Apr. 18 2024, Published 12:55 p.m. ET

Cars stuck in flood waters in Dubai
Source: Getty Images

April showers are bringing more than May flowers in Dubai, an area that typically only sees a little over 3 inches of rainfall a year. In fact, the unusual rains that hit the region in April 2024 brought as much rain with a single storm as the Middle Eastern area normally sees every two years! The rainfall, which totaled over half a foot according to some reports, did more than just water the plants; it also caused disruptive flooding that had deadly consequences for some.

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The unusual rainfall is raising questions about why it's raining so much in Dubai, including concerns about the source of the unexpected showers, prompting some to ask whether or not climate change had anything to do with things. Here's everything we know about the storm.

Man wades through flood waters with his bike
Source: Getty Images
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Why is it raining so much in Dubai?

ABC News reports that 6.26 inches of rain fell in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during a 24 hour period, starting at 10 p.m. on Monday, April 15. In Dubai, annual totals typically only reach about 3.12 inches of rainfall, with just 0.13 inches of that amount typically coming from April storms.

Seeing so much rainfall in such a short time, and during a typically dry season at that, has prompted some to ask why this happened, and whether or not the controversial process of cloud seeding had anything to do with it.

Cloud seeding involves the implantation of naturally occurring chemicals — according to the Desert Research Institute, silver iodide (agI) is typically used — into moisture rich cloud systems to help form ice crystals. Those ice crystals are then headed up from the ground (or by aircraft) as storm systems come into contact with the clouds that have been seeded. This causes wetter storm systems that produce more rains, adding much needed moisture back into dry areas, like Dubai.

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While cloud seeding does occur near Dubai, a UAE meteorology agency claims that cloud seeding wasn't a part of this specific storm system, as Reuters reported. Instead, experts are pointing the finger at climate change, since warmer temperatures on the ground and colder temperatures in the air can literally create the perfect storm, generating the exact conditions needed for a fierce and slow moving storm system.

That's bad news for regions all around the world, as temperatures continue to warm up, creating more opportunities for powerful storm systems like these to drop massive amounts of water onto the unsuspecting towns and villages below.

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Flooding in Dubai airport shut down flights and prompted delays days after the rain stopped.

The flooded airport was left with no choice but to halt flights completely during the storm, as the airfield was left completely submerged. According to CNN, in mid-April 2024, hundreds of passengers were trapped inside the walls of the building where they sought refuge from the rain, with some spending more than 30 hours waiting for flights to resume.

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Even days after the rain stopped, both incoming and outgoing flights were still getting canceled or delayed, highlighting just how long it can take for one of the busiest airports in the world to get back on track after an unexpected shutdown. Some people took to X, the platform previously known as Twitter, to express their frustrations, with one man posting that nobody was answering any of his calls for help.

This is frustrating and frightening news for those traveling through Dubai's airport as they try and make their way to their destination, but it's even more traumatic for those on the ground. Reuters reports that an estimated 20 people were killed during the flooding, with a possibility that more bodies will be uncovered as the floodwaters recede. Until then, all the people in Dubai can do is try and clean up the mess left behind, and work on climate mitigation and climate adaptation measures for the next time this happens.

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