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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Many Travelers Are Still Dealing With Flight Delays And Cancellations

Airlines are still delaying and canceling flights, as frustrated travelers scramble to make new arrangements.

Another day, another wave of flight delays and cancellations. 

From coast to coast, frustrated travelers are scrambling to make new arrangements.  

Their plans for a smooth trip are grounded. 

This month got off to a particularly turbulent takeoff as a series of storms snarled air travel across the country. 

More than 15,000 flights were delayed the first weekend of the month alone. 

Another thousand canceled altogether, becoming a nightmare. 

But unfortunately, it’s not uncommon these days. 

“There was a lot of severe weather and that can happen, but it shouldn’t have created the kind of ripple effects through the system that it did. That is something that to me is an indication that we still have not seen the improvements that we need, that the system is very brittle,” said Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.  

This year has seen more flight cancellations and delays than in all of 2021. 

U.S. Airlines canceled 2.7% of flights between January 1 and August 7 this year. 

The number of delayed arrivals shot up to 20% up from 15% last year. 

Weather is the leading factor.

Skyler McKinley is the regional director of public affairs at AAA Colorado. 

“As we increasingly have to deal with severe weather events, airlines’ top concerns remain consumer safety. If it’s not safe to fly because of a storm, or the runway is too hot, or other climate concerns that leads to delays and cancellations,” McKinley said.  

And those staffing shortages we’ve been hearing about for months are still going strong. 

Airlines lost thousands of employees during the pandemic: pilots, air traffic controllers and flight attendants.  

And many are struggling to fill those positions. 

As a result, carriers have slimmed down the number of flights they offer. 

It’s leaving fewer options for passengers when inevitable travel disruptions arise. 

Captain Marc Champion is a flight training director for United Airlines. 

“With the traffic recovery, we’ve had to recover a lot of people that we had placed on the sidelines. And in some cases carriers had furloughed, to get airline operations back up to the place that they were pre-pandemic,” Champion said. 

These issues have prompted lawmakers and consumer advocates to push for more protections for travelers. 

Last week, the transportation department proposed a new rule that would standardize the meaning of a “significant” delay and make it easier for passengers to get a refund on those pricey plane tickets. 

But in the meantime, airline employees are asking passengers for patience and to plan for the worst. 

Give yourself a travel cushion, if you can — a day or so at each end of your trip just in case. 

And experts say book your flight early. 

The odds of getting delayed are lower, and if you do need to be re-booked the airline will have more options. 


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Southwest Flight Attendant Suffers Broken Back In Hard Landing

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 9, 2022

None of the other 141 people on board the plane were injured in the incident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant suffered a compression fracture to a vertebra in her upper back during a hard landing last month in California, according to federal safety investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the impact of landing was so hard that the flight attendant thought the plane had crashed. She felt pain in her back and neck and could not move, and was taken to a hospital where she was diagnosed with the fracture.

The safety board completed its investigation without saying what caused the hard landing.

The NTSB said none of the other 141 people on board the plane were injured in the incident at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California.

The pilots told investigators that they were aiming for the normal touchdown zone on the relatively short runway.

“However, it ended up being a firm landing,” the NTSB said in its final report, dated Friday.

Dallas-based Southwest said in a statement Monday: “We reported the matter to the NTSB in accordance with regulatory requirements and conducted an internal review of the event.”

A spokeswoman for the airline declined to provide further information when asked about the result of the internal investigation and whether the plane was inspected for evidence of damage that could occur during a hard landing. The plane has been making several flights a day, according to tracking services.

Shortly after the 18-year-old Boeing 737-700 taxied off the runway, the pilots — a 55-year-old captain and 49-year-old co-pilot — were told about the injury to the flight attendant, who was in a jump seat at the back of the plane.

The NTSB, which did not travel to the accident site, has not made its documents from the investigation publicly available.

The runway that the plane landed on is only 5,700 feet long. By comparison, runways at nearby Los Angeles International Airport range between 8,900 and nearly 13,000 feet.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.


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