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Nowhere to Drain: Dubai Floods Reveal An Urgent Global Climate Change Challenge

Source: Gulf News

Last week, unprecedented torrential rainfall submerged parts of the United Arab Emirates causing serious disruptions to daily life in Dubai and other areas.

The flooding resulted from the UAE’s biggest deluge on record. It was so intense that satellites continued to capture images of the aftermath from space days after the clouds cleared and the downpour stopped.

Heavy Rainfall From April 16 Through April 17

A deluge of heavy rain swept over a large area of the UAE from late Tuesday, April 16, through Wednesday, April 17.

Source: Bloomberg/Christopher Pike

Dubai, the UAE’s most populous city, experienced a year’s worth of rain in matter of 12 hours. Areas located farther east received nearly two years’ worth of rain in less than 24 hours.

Most Intense Rainfall In Areas Located North And East of Abu Dhabi

Areas north and east of the country’s capital city, Abu Dhabi, experienced the most intense rainfall.

Source: Pexels

Rainfall amounts ranged from 4 to 8 inches (about 100 to 200 mm) in many areas. Some locations received nearly 10 inches (250 mm) rainfall.

Floodwaters Surged Rapidly

The floodwaters rose rapidly and took longer than usual to recede due to the unprecedented downpour, marking the most extreme rainfall event in the UAE’s recorded history since the country started keeping records in 1949.

Source: Pexels

Less than 48 hours after the rain subsided, the Landsat 9 satellite flew over the UAE on Friday, April 19, capturing images of large pools of floodwater that lingered around. This satellite, managed jointly by NASA and the United States Geological Survey, provides detailed imagery of Earth’s surface.

Climate Change And The Inadequacy Of Urban Engineering

The recent flooding highlighted the inadequacy of urban engineering in the face of climate change challenges.

Source: Pexels/markus spiske

As the frequency of extreme weather events increases, even the largest and most modern urban areas have struggled to manage excessive water due to insufficient drainage infrastructure.

The Drainage Predicament In Global Cities

Cities like Dubai are constructed on formerly uninhabitable terrain. They embody 20th-century urban development ideas that disrupt natural water absorption systems.

Source: Pexels/Abid Bin Nazar

With the gradual increase in population, waste generation has also gone up necessitating the expansion of landfills and waste disposal methods. The drainage predicament persists for major global cities such as Dubai, which are encountering more frequent and intense rainfall events.

Things Are Likely To Get Worse With Time

The UAE has been witnessing more frequent and intense rainfall in recent years.

Source: Flickr/Mohamod Fasil

Projections suggest this trend is likely to worsen in the coming years, especially with regards to intense daily rainfall occurrences.

Speculations That Cloud Seeding Experiments Lead To This Weather Disaster

There have been speculations that the UAE’s cloud seeding experiments contributed to the torrential downpour.

Source: Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

However, the UAE government told CNBC that such claims are inaccurate. Experts have also dismissed such assertions.

The City’s Construction Hinders The Natural Water Absorption Process

The city of Dubai has been constructed on sandy terrain, which naturally allows water to seep into the soil. However, extensive concrete development has hindered this natural water absorption process.

Source: Wikimedia/Ziank-photography

Ana Arsky, CEO of environmental startup 4 Habitos Para Mudar o Mundo, told CNBC, “We have natural drain places that bring water directly to the aquifers and then inside our water stocks.” She added, “When we pave, it’s not there anymore.”

Landfills Impeding Natural Drainage Systems

The rapid growth of population linked to trends in global urbanization contributes to increased waste production and accumulation. While trash may not be visible on Dubai’s streets, it still needs to be disposed of. It often ends up in less-than-ideal locations.

Source: Pexels

Plastic products, which do not absorb water effectively, can accumulate in landfills. This creates vast piles of trash that impede natural drainage systems from functioning effectively.

New York City Is Also Facing Similar Issues

Older cities with properly set up drainage systems are also encountering similar challenges.

Source: Flickr/Patrick McFall

This became evident last fall in New York City when a single day’s rainfall of 5 to 8 inches led to flooding in several areas.

The Impact Of Climate Change

Tiago Marques, co-founder and CEO of Greenmetrics.AI, said, “Rainwater drainage systems, they are not adapted for the flows that we are seeing currently with climate change and with extremely concentrated rainfall.”

Source: Pexels

Marques added, “You get a saturation of the drainage system that doesn’t have any way of draining the amounts water that have been falling recently. This ends up coming to the surface and causing urban flooding, whether you’re talking about tunnels, highways or the lowest parts of the city.”

Inadequate Drainage System Maintenance is Not The Real Issue

Marques pointed out that citizens often blame municipal officials for inadequate cleaning of drainage system when flooding occurs.

Source: Pexels

However, last year, in Porto, Portugal, serious flooding occurred in several parts of the city despite the drainage systems having been properly cleaned.

The Case Of Porto, Portugal

Referring to the situation that occurred in Porto, Portugal, Marques explained, “The amount of water was so high and so unusual that it basically swept all the branches and even trash into the drainage systems that were previously clean, and blocked them.”

Source: Pexels/Burak The Weekender

Marques added, “When all this water starts to pile up, it’s very hard for the authorities to know exactly what’s happening everywhere at the same time.”

Need For Climate Change Adaptation

Reflecting on the frequency of disruptive weather events, Marques said, “What you used to have every 100 years … starts to happen every 10 years.”

Source: Pexels/markus spiske

Marques added, “Then the floods that have been happening once every 10 years now are starting to happen every couple of years. Climate change adaptation means building resilience technologies.”

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

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