Dubai skyline reflected, stormy sky, seen from old town

Moving mountain to make rain in Dubai, perhaps

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Towering nearly 830 metres up, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – part of the United Arab Emirates – is a marvel of engineering, and the world’s tallest building, for now.

It may soon pale in comparison to a new megastructure in the desert nation – the UAE, with the help of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, is considering building a mountain to increase rainfall. The study is only beginning, but the researchers expect to have the first modelling results – showing necessary height and slope – this summer.

While the idea of an artificial mountain may seem outrageous, this isn’t the first time it has surfaced. In 2009 a 1 kilometre-high hill was proposed for wildlife in Berlin, and in 2011 a Dutch group took a serious look at building a 2 kilometre peak for sport and recreation. While neither got off the drawing board, research concluded that they could be done.

A mountain in the UAE, one of the 10 driest nations on Earth, wouldn’t be for animal habitats or skiing, however, but to trigger cloud formation and much-needed rainfall, with some help from cloud seeding. Increasing water demand in the country, combined with the effects of climate change, takes a toll on a total annual rainfall that averages  75 millimetres. Hence the heavy use of energy-intensive and often polluting desalination plants in the region.

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