They have to be ready on a moment’s notice because promising clouds are not as common in the Middle East as in many other parts of the world.

“We are on 24-hour availability — we live within 30 to 40 minutes of the airport — and from arrival here, it takes us 25 minutes to be airborne,” said Capt. Mark Newman, a South African senior cloud-seeding pilot. In the event of multiple, potentially rain-bearing clouds, the center will send more than one aircraft.

The United Arab Emirates uses two seeding substances: the traditional material made of silver iodide and a newly patented substance developed at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi that uses nanotechnology that researchers there say is better adapted to the hot, dry conditions in the Persian Gulf. The pilots inject the seeding materials into the base of the cloud, allowing it to be lofted tens of thousands of feet by powerful updrafts.

And then, in theory, the seeding material, made up of hygroscopic (water attracting) molecules, bonds to the water vapor particles that make up a cloud. That combined particle is a little bigger and in turn attracts more water vapor particles until they form droplets, which eventually become heavy enough to fall as rain — with no appreciable environmental impact from the seeding materials, scientists say.

That is in theory. But many in the scientific community doubt the efficacy of cloud seeding altogether. A major stumbling block for many atmospheric scientists is the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of documenting net increases in rainfall.

“The problem is that once you seed, you can’t tell if the cloud would have rained anyway,” said Alan Robock, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University and an expert in evaluating climate engineering strategies.

Another problem is that the tall cumulus clouds most common in summer in the emirates and nearby areas can be so turbulent that it is difficult to determine if the seeding has any effect, said Roy Rasmussen, a senior scientist and an expert in cloud physics at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Israel, a pioneer in cloud seeding, halted its program in 2021 after 50 years because it seemed to yield at best only marginal gains in precipitation. It was “not economically efficient,” said Pinhas Alpert, an emeritus professor at the University of Tel Aviv who did one of the most comprehensive studies of the program.

Cloud seeding got its start in 1947, with General Electric scientists working under a military contract to find a way to de-ice planes in cold weather and create fog to obscure troop movements. Some of the techniques were later used in Vietnam to prolong the monsoon season, in an effort to make it harder for the North Vietnamese to supply their troops.

While the underlying science of cloud seeding seems straightforward, in practice, there are numerous problems. Not all clouds have the potential to produce rain, and even a cloud seemingly suitable for seeding may not have enough moisture. Another challenge in hot climates is that raindrops may evaporate before they reach the ground.

Sometimes the effect of seeding can be larger than expected, producing too much rain or snow. Or the winds can shift, carrying the clouds away from the area where the seeding was done, raising the possibility of “unintended consequences,” notes a statement from the American Meteorological Society.

“You can modify a cloud, but you can’t tell it what to do after you modify it,” said James Fleming, an atmospheric scientist and historian of science at Colby College in Maine.

“It might snow; it might dissipate. It might go downstream; it might cause a storm in Boston,” he said, referring to an early cloud-seeding experiment over Mount Greylock in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

This seems to be what happened in the emirates in the summer of 2019, when cloud seeding apparently generated such heavy rains in Dubai that water had to be pumped out of flooded residential neighborhoods and the upscale Dubai mall.

Despite the difficulties of gathering data on the efficacy of cloud seeding, Mr. Al Mandous said the emirates’ methods were yielding at least a 5 percent increase in rain annually — and almost certainly far more. But he acknowledged the need for data covering many more years to satisfy the scientific community.

Over last New Year’s weekend, said Mr. Al Mandous, cloud seeding coincided with a storm that produced 5.6 inches of rain in three days — more precipitation than the United Arab Emirates often gets in a year.

In the tradition of many scientists who have tried to modify the weather, he is ever optimistic. There is the new cloud-seeding nanosubstance, and if the emirates just had more clouds to seed, he said, maybe they could make more rain for the country.

And where would those extra clouds come from?

“Making clouds is very difficult,” he acknowledged. “But, who knows, maybe God will send us somebody who will have the idea of how to make clouds.”

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Its Largest Lake Is So Dry, China Digs Deep To Water Crops

By Associated Press
August 23, 2022

High temperatures have sparked wildfires in southwest China, and factories have cut production as hydroelectric plants reduce their output.

With China’s biggest freshwater lake reduced to just 25% of its usual size by a severe drought, work crews are digging trenches to keep water flowing to one of the country’s key rice-growing regions.

The dramatic decline of Poyang Lake in the landlocked southeastern province of Jiangxi had otherwise cut off irrigation channels to nearby farmlands. The crews, using excavators to dig trenches, only work after dark because of the extreme daytime heat, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

A severe heat wave is wreaking havoc across much of southern China. High temperatures have sparked mountain fires that have forced the evacuation of 1,500 people in the southwest, and factories have been ordered to cut production as hydroelectric plants reduce their output amid drought conditions. The extreme heat and drought have wilted crops and shrunk rivers including the giant Yangtze, disrupting cargo traffic.

Fed by China’s major rivers, Poyang Lake averages about 1,400 square miles in high season, but has contracted to just 285 square miles in the recent drought.

As determined by water level, the lake officially entered this year’s dry season Aug. 6, earlier than at any time since records began being taken in 1951. Hydrological surveys before then are incomplete, although it appears the lake may be at or around its lowest level in recent history.

Along with providing water for agriculture and other uses, the lake is a major stopover for migrating birds heading south for the winter.

China is more accustomed to dealing with the opposite problem: seasonal rains that trigger landslides and flooding every summer. Two years ago, villages and fields of rice, cotton, corn and beans around Poyang Lake were inundated after torrential rains.

This year, a wide swath of western and central China has seen days of temperatures exceeding 104 Fahrenheit in heat waves that have started earlier and lasted longer than usual.

The heat is likely connected to human-caused climate change, though scientists have yet to do to the complex calculations and computer simulations to say that for certain.

“The heat is certainly record-breaking, and certainly aggravated by human-caused climate change,” said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in the Netherlands. “Drought is always a bit more complex.”

The “truly mind-boggling temperatures roasting China” are connected to a stuck jet stream — the river of air that moves weather systems around the world — said Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. 

She said an elongated area of relatively high atmospheric pressure parked over western Russia is responsible for both China’s and Europe’s heat waves this year. In China’s case, the high pressure is preventing cool air masses and precipitation from entering the area.

“When hot, dry conditions get stuck, the soil dries out and heats more readily, reinforcing the heat dome overhead even further,” Francis said.

In the hard-hit city of Chongqing, some shopping malls have been told to open only from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. to conserve energy. Residents have been seeking respite in the cool of air raid shelters dating from World War II.

That reflects the situation in Europe and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, with high temperatures taking a toll on public health, food production and the environment.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Source: newsy.com

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U.S. Warns That Moscow May Intensify Attacks

Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times

VERSOIX, Switzerland — The phones ringing in an office near the tranquil shores of Lake Geneva are a constant reminder of the devastation about 1,500 miles away in Ukraine.

The anguished callers are hoping to find any sign of loved ones, including many who went missing weeks ago when a blast killed dozens of Ukrainians at a detention camp controlled by Russia. Fielding the calls — roughly 900 a day — are staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which helps trace people lost in conflicts and disasters across the world.

“She was in the street. I heard the air raid sirens, small explosions, people screaming,” said Mathias Issaev, relating a call from a Ukrainian woman looking for her husband. “Once she got through to us she didn’t want to give up.”

Some callers are thankful to reach anyone who will listen; many are overwhelmed with distress. Call operators like Mr. Issaev make up the front line of the I.C.R.C. Central Tracing Agency, which has worked to reunite people split apart by war for more than 150 years. The job does not end when the fighting stops — it is still following cases dating back to Lebanon’s civil war of the 1970s.

In the Ukraine war, the Red Cross is trying to track around 13,000 individuals — Russian and Ukrainian, soldiers and civilians — in its biggest tracing operation since World War II. But since the explosion last month at the detention camp in Olenivka, a town in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia, the phone operators have also faced a torrent of abuse. Callers have denounced them as idlers and traitors, or as taking sides in the conflict.

“We’ve encountered a huge amount of hate speech,” said Esperanza Martinez, head of the agency’s Ukraine crisis team. The threatening calls and emails, including death threats, present a new menace to the agency’s humanitarian mission, she said.

The Red Cross operates under the Geneva Conventions as a neutral intermediary between warring parties, who are supposed to provide it with details of their prisoners and allow access. But misconceptions about the agency’s role persist, including a belief that it is supposed to guarantee prisoners’ safety or can force parties to comply with the laws of war.

Red Cross officials visited the Olenivka camp in May to observe prisoners and deliver water tanks. But they have not been able to reach an agreement with Russian authorities to visit it after the explosion, exposing the limitations of the agency’s leverage. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the blast.

“A lot of what we do is silent,” Ms. Martinez said, adding: “Because of that we are vilified.”

Such explanations provide little consolation for callers like a Ukrainian mother who got through to operator Louis Depuydt. She had seen images on the Telegram social network of her son, a prisoner of war, showing broken teeth, a black eye and other signs of mistreatment.

“She was crying, her voice was trembling, you could feel her panic,” Mr. Depuydt said. “You have to deal with a lot of emotion, a lot of fear, lots of anger.”

The relentless exposure to pain and suffering takes a toll on the operators, even those who handle emailed inquiries. Assigned to an appeal from a woman looking for her daughter, Inna Laschenko of the tracing team teared up.

“Hang in there my beautiful girl, I’m with you. I love you so much,” Ms. Laschenko, a mother of two, began, reading the message aloud. Her voice faltering, she stopped to wipe her eyes. She could only whisper the message’s last words: “Please, help me.”

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Starbucks Asks Labor Board To Halt Union Votes Temporarily

Starbucks alleges St. Louis labor board officials made special arrangements for pro-union workers to vote in person at its office.

Starbucks on Monday asked the National Labor Relations Board to temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores, citing allegations from a board employee that regional NLRB officials improperly coordinated with union organizers.

In a letter to the board chairman, Starbucks said the unnamed career NLRB employee informed the company about the activity, which happened in the board’s St. Louis office in the spring while it was overseeing a union election at a Starbucks store in Overland Park, Kansas.

The store is one of 314 U.S. Starbucks locations where workers have petitioned the NLRB to hold union elections since late last year. More than 220 of those Starbucks stores have voted to unionize. The company opposes the unionization effort.

The Seattle coffee giant alleges that St. Louis labor board officials made special arrangements for pro-union workers to vote in person at its office when they did not receive mail-in ballots, even though Starbucks and the union had agreed that store elections would be handled by mail-in ballot.

In its letter, Starbucks referred to memos the regional office sent confirming that workers were allowed to come to the office and vote in person after the union told the regional office that some workers had not received ballots in the mail. The memos, citing “board protocol,” said the workers voted alone in an empty office, according to Starbucks.

“Because observers were not present, no one can be sure who appeared to vote, whether NLRB personnel had inappropriate communications with the voters, told them how to vote, showed them how to vote or engaged in other undisclosed conduct,” Starbucks wrote in its letter.

Starbucks said regional board officials also disclosed confidential information to the union, including which workers’ ballots had arrived in the mail to be counted.

Starbucks Workers United, the group seeking to unionize U.S. Starbucks stores, accused the company of trying to “distract attention away from their unprecedented anti-union campaign, including firing over 75 union leaders across the country, while simultaneously trying to halt all union elections.”

“Workers have spoken loud and clear by winning 82 percent of union elections,” the group said in a statement. “Ultimately, this is Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize.”

A spokesperson for the NLRB said Monday that the agency doesn’t comment on open cases.

Press secretary Kayla Blado said the NLRB will “carefully and objectively” consider any challenges that Starbucks raises through “established channels.” Starbucks can also seek expedited review in the case, Blado said.

Workers at the Overland Park store petitioned the NLRB to hold a vote in February. In April, workers voted 6-1 to unionize, but seven additional ballots were the subject of challenges from Starbucks or the union. A hearing on those challenges is scheduled for Tuesday; Starbucks has asked for that hearing to be delayed.

Starbucks said there is evidence of misconduct in other regions as well. The company wants the NLRB to thoroughly investigate other Starbucks union elections and make public a report on its findings. The company said the board should also implement safeguards to prevent regional officials from coordinating with one party or another.

Starbucks also asked the NLRB to issue an order requiring all pending and future elections to be conducted in person with observers from both sides.

“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remedying these types of actions, we do not see how the board can represent itself as a neutral agency,” the company said in the letter.

Starbucks has long opposed unionization, dating back to CEO Howard Schultz’s acquisition of the company in the late 1980s. The current unionization effort has been riddled with accusations and lawsuits on both sides.

Starbucks Workers United has filed 284 unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against Starbucks or one of its operators, according to the labor board. Starbucks has filed two charges against Workers United.

Earlier this month, the labor board dismissed one of the charges filed by Starbucks, saying the company failed to prove that pro-union workers blocked store entrances or intimidated customers during a spring rally.

In June, the NLRB asked a federal court in western New York to order Starbucks to stop interfering with unionization efforts at its U.S. stores. It also asked the court to order Starbucks to reinstate seven Buffalo employees it says were unlawfully fired for trying to form a union. That case is pending.

But the NLRB’s actions against Starbucks haven’t always been successful. In June, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Starbucks didn’t have to rehire three workers who claimed that the company had retaliated against them for organizing a union.

Starbucks isn’t the only large company facing a unionization effort that has attacked the voting process.

Amazon has also levied accusations of improper conduct against the NLRB’s regional office in Brooklyn in its attempt to re-do a historic labor win at a warehouse on Staten Island, New York. Among other allegations, Amazon said the agency tainted the voting process by seeking reinstatement of a fired Amazon worker in the weeks leading up to the March election.

Attorneys representing the e-commerce juggernaut argued their case in an agency hearing during the summer. Attorneys for the agency have pushed back. A regional director for an NLRB office in Phoenix is expected to issue a ruling on that case in the coming weeks.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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