The UAE's 'Empty Quarter' desert could be transformed into a green oasis with rivers, after icebergs are transported to the Arabian Gulf from Antartica.
National Advisor Bureau Limited, an Abu Dhabi-based eco firm, plans to tow icebergs from Antartica to the coast of Fujairah starting in 2018. The gigantic masses of floating ice will be harvested for drinking water and will drastically change the UAE's climate, according to the firms managing director.
"It would create a vortex which would draw clouds from all over the region," Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi told Gulf News, explaining that the icebergs would create micro-climates and cause more rain to fall in the region.
"Cold air gushing out from an iceberg close to the shores of the Arabian Sea would cause a trough and rainstorms across the Arabian Gulf and the southern region of the Arabian Peninsula all year round," he said.
"As the rising air expands, cools and condenses due to the decrease in air pressure ... water vapor is collected in the clouds, they become heavy and falls as rain."
The average iceberg contains some 20 billion gallons of fresh water, enough to meet the needs of one million people over five years, Shehi said.
Cloud seeding has already increased rain
Shehi and his team are also suggesting that the icebergs, which will take a year to tow to the UAE's waters, will be a draw for tourists. But as noted by Arabian Business, unusually high amounts of rain in the UAE have deterred sunbathers in the country this year.
Due to cloud seeding, rainfall has already increased substantially in the country. This process involves light aircraft flying into clouds and releasing flares containing potassium chloride, sodium chloride and magnesium.
Typically, rainfall in the UAE only rarely exceeds 120 mm per year, but during one day in March, 287 mm of rain were recorded by meteorologists. This has led many to hail the method as a revolutionary success in enhancing precipitation to reduce water scarcity in the country.
While some have raised concerns, others have countered that cloud seeding is a better alternative to desalination. Experts argue that cloud seeding has little or no impact on the environment as it uses natural minerals. The financial and energy cost of desalination are significantly higher as well.
"At the same time, there is an increased need for fresh water [in the UAE] because of continuous population growth and lifestyle changes placing more stretch on water demand," Omar Ahmed Al Yazeedi, director of research and development and training department at the National Center for Meteorology and Seismology, said.
"We need to get the maximum benefit from any water source we have, so we are looking at different methodologies for enhancing precipitation," he said.
Could icebergs be the answer?
As environmentalists across the world raise alarm bells about melting ice in the North Pole, could melting icebergs be a game changer for the UAE?
"This is the purest water in the world,” Shehi said.
But this isn't the first time a Gulf country has floated the idea of towing ice to the region. Efforts in the 1970s to bring icebergs to Saudi Arabia were abandoned due to costs and technical challenges.
But Shehi's firm seems unconcerned about costs, although details about the plan remain unclear.
"We have formulated the technical and financial plan. Towing is the best method," Shehi said.
But, while this method may be revolutionary, is it not harmful for the global climate?