Making it rain over Dubai. And the idea that humans can modify the weather should be exciting, but it's not.

Cloudseeding traditionally refers to a set of weather-modification techniques in which a substance - salt, or silver iodide, or dry ice - is fired into a cloud to enhance precipitation, not to create it.

For years, this has been done by planes; more recently, unmanned drones have been tried, releasing critical charges that can have similar effect. In theory, the seeding creates an attractive substrate for water molecules to coalesce around, forming droplets or crystals.

It's unclear whether the 14 cloud - seeding flights the U.A.E. conducted in the week before those heavy rains even aimed at the clouds responsible.

But it certainly behoves the state to sow optimism, and the National Center of Meteorological often publishes simulations and announcements tagged #cloud-seeding, followed by videos of inundated roadways.

Attempts to summon rain are hardly a new activity for human beings. For millenniums, we've had prayers and rituals and outlandish inventions geared to the purpose - as well as many that aimed to do the opposite, warding off storms and floods.

At first glance, what these videos from the Emirates want to document is the closing of a loop : human ingenuity transforming the fantasy of weather manipulation into effective practices of control.

The U.A.E demanded rain, and there was rain, and it was great public relations. The Emirati government, after all, presides over a scorching nation whose economy depends on the export of crude oil.

It has a strong interest in presenting itself as potent enough to manage the fallout of climate change by, say, making water fall from the sky.

Like a lot of P.R. the videos show us something with miraculous overtones but wind up provoking anxiety instead.

Confronted with evidence that we have achieved one of humanity's perennial goals - control, however partial, over the weather, which we used to commend to whims of gods and nature - you might expect to feel some shred of pride or triumph.

Humans, you remember, have already managed to alter not just the weather but the climate of the entire planet, a change of such magnitude that the idea of using drones to milk the clouds over a small patch of desert feels paltry and insignificant.

As the videos loop, you begin to discern that this fact lurks in the background of each one, haunting the images. Whatever power they want to convey will always be dwarfed by a greater one.

It may well be that human engineering of the environment or technologies for things like carbon capture are vital parts of our future on the planet. It is, at the very least, fascinating to consider their possibilities.

But what's most deflating is about these videos may be what they tell us about how those possibilities will become realities - not as a part of some international consensus to limit our damage to the Earth but, perhaps, because they are unilaterally deployed by wealthy nations or billionaire monarchs.

And used, in the end, simply to improve the weather at home - or to project to the world, and to Instagram, that someone holds the power to make the desert bloom.

Watching rain pour down on Emirati highways, alongside news report suggesting that it was provoked by humankind, captivated me for a moment.

The videos offered an attractive portrait of human mastery, a fleeting sense of wonder and hope. Then the moment passed, along with the vague fantasy of our ability to prevent the fatal sweep of sea and heat over so much life.

My awe shriveled. I wasn't looking at a storm like the one in Mississippi. I was looking at content.

The World Students Society thanks author Paul Mcadory.


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