Climate Change and Drainage Lack Blamed for UAE, Oman Floods

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Climate Change and Drainage Lack Blamed for UAE, Oman Floods

Between April 14 and 15, the United Arab Emirates and Oman were inundated with record rainfall that flooded its highways and houses, jammed traffic, and trapped people in their homes. At least 20 people died from the flood in Oman and four people in Dubai.

According to the UAE government, the rain that fell in Dubai on 15 April exceeded the daily rainfall records in the last 75 years.

Is cloud seeding to blame?

Early reports questioned whether cloud seeding had caused the heavy rain. UAE and the Arabian Peninsula are known for their desert climate, and the rare rainfall leads the country to conduct regular seeding activity. The process involves implanting a chemical into the clouds to increase rainfall. However, UAE’s meteorology agency told Reuters there was no operation before the storm.

Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London, says it is misleading to blame cloud seeding for the heavy rainfall because “Cloud seeding can’t create clouds from nothing. It encourages water already in the sky to condense faster and drop water in certain places. So first, you need moisture. Without it, there’d be no clouds,” she said.

Warming temperatures, heavier rains

The huge rains that fell in Dubai and Oman are likely caused by a typical weather system made worse by climate change.

According to Esraa Alnaqbi, a senior forecaster at the UAE government’s National Centre of Meteorology, the low-pressure system in the upper atmosphere and the surface acted like a “pressure squeeze” on the air. That squeeze, intensified by the contrast between warmer temperatures at ground level and colder temperatures higher up, created the conditions for the powerful thunderstorm, she said (Cornwell, 2024).

Experts believe that rising temperatures caused by climate change are creating more extreme weather events worldwide, including intense rainfall.

“Rainfall from thunderstorms, like the ones seen in UAE in recent days, sees a particularly strong increase with warming. This is because convection, the strong updraft in thunderstorms, strengthens in a warmer world,” said Dim Coumou, a professor in climate extremes at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Cornwell, 2024).

Additionally, global warming has resulted in “extraordinarily” warm water in the seas around Dubai, where there is also very warm air above, said Mark Howden, Director at the Australian National University’s Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions. Warm air and water have increased evaporation rates and the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, leading to heavier rainfall like in Dubai (Cornwell, 2024).

Lack of drainage systems

The lack of drainage systems in UAE and Oman explains why water levels keep rising rather than falling. The failure of water to drain away has proved a significant obstacle to recovery efforts in the desert country, with persistent flooding blocking roads around Dubai days later, France24 reports.

Karim Elgendy, associate director at the Buro Happold engineering consultancy, said drainage for stormwater had not been widely included in the city’s planning, much of which is only a few years old.

“Water is locked in. If you have a hard surface like the road or the airport, where will it go? The ground is too hard (to absorb water),”. He said installing stormwater systems once the infrastructure had been built was very difficult.

World Weather Attribution Analysis        

A report from the World Weather Attribution released on 25 April says climate change has made extreme weather events in UAE and Oman, which typically occur during El Niño years, 10 to 40% more intense than without global warming.

Under the World Weather Attribution initiative, a team of 21 scientists under the World Weather Attribution and researchers found that climate change was making extreme rainfall events in the two countries — which typically fall during El Niño years — between 10 and 40% more intense than they would have been without global warming.

To assess the role of climate change, they observe a trend associated with the warming of 1.2°C and find one associated with rising temperatures and heavy rainfall because a warmer world can now hold more moisture, making extreme rain events more intense. 

CNN reports that the Arabian Peninsula, where the UAE and Oman sit, occasionally experiences intense bouts of rain in April and May from what is known as mesoscale convective systems — several thunderstorms acting as a single weather system. However, Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute in London, said that studies show that these storms are frequently increasing.

While El Niño, a natural recurring weather phenomenon, is a factor in the flooding events in both countries, we should focus on slowing down climate change—which she says countries can do. The solution is to stop burning fossil fuels and deforestation, which accounts for at least 12% of global carbon pollution.

However, according to previous reports from CNN, UAE’s state-owned energy company, ADNOC, plans to expand its oil and gas production significantly.

Other fossil fuel-rich countries are also doing it. The International Energy Agency has said the world must end new fossil fuel projects to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The updated IEA landmark Net Zero Roadmap says that limiting warming to 1.5 °C remains possible due to the record growth of critical clean energy technologies, but momentum needs to increase rapidly in many areas.

In the updated IEA net zero report, reaching net zero by 2050 entails reducing fossil fuel demand by 25% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, which means that no new oil and gas projects should be approved to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.


Cornwell, A. (2024, April 19). What caused Dubai floods? Experts cite climate change, not cloud seeding. Reuters. Retrieved from

Heavy precipitation hitting vulnerable communities in the UAE and Oman becoming an increasing threat as the climate warms. (2024, April 25). Word Weather Attribution. Retrieved from

Dewan, A. (2024, April 25). Scientists find the fingerprints of climate change on Dubai’s deadly floods. CNN. Retrieved from

Lacking storm drains, Dubai sees persistent flooding. (2024, April 19). France24. Retrieved from

The path to limiting global warming to 1.5 °C has narrowed, but clean energy growth is keeping it open. (2023, September 26). IEA. Retrieved from

Dewan, A. (2023, November 23). A UAE company has secured African land the size of the UK for controversial carbon offset projects. CNN. Retrieved from:

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