Dubai hit with a year’s worth of rain in a day

Dubai hit with a year’s worth of rain in a day
Record breaking torrential rainfall in Dubai turned the international airport into a lake. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews April 17, 2024

Dubai was hit with the heaviest rainfall in 75 years after a whole year’s worth of rain fell in a day on April 16, plunging the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) into chaos.

Dubai’s international airport was turned into a lake of water videos on social media show, and there was ankle-high water in the local metro system thanks to the torrential rain. Lightning strikes were seen flashing across the sky, occasionally hitting the tip of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

The UAE's National Centre of Meteorology issued a weather warning for large swathes of the country, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

The rains began on April 15 in the evening and 24 hours later more than 142mm had fallen on the desert city of Dubai, as much as usually falls in one and half years, according to the local meteorological authorities.

An average year sees 94.7 millimetres of rain at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel and a hub for the long-haul carrier Emirates, The Guardian reported. Rain is not unheard of in Dubai, and normally occurs during the cooler winter months in modest amounts.

The authorities have closed the airport and inbound flights were cancelled on April 16 evening, diverted "due to the continued exceptional weather event currently being experienced in the UAE," the airport said in a statement. Departures continued as planes attempted to take off, powering through the water that covered the airstrip.

Neighbouring Oman was also hit by flash floods that have killed 18, with some still missing, t4eh BBC reports. The dead included ten schoolchildren who were killed when their vehicle attempted to cross a flooded area but was swept away.

Bahrain was also hit by floods, according to footage released on social media, but so far no deaths have been reported.

As bne IntelliNews reported in March, one of the effects of global warming is increased rainfall as warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate. After the hottest year on record in 2023, the atmosphere already holds circa 10% more water vapour today than just 30 years ago. The warmer the atmosphere gets, the more water it can hold – about 7% more per 1°C of warming according to the Clausius-Clapeyron equation – and scientists have already observed a significant increase in atmospheric moisture, reports Climate Signals.

The increased vaporisation leads to more rain and the changes of extreme rainfall increases even faster than the rate of vaporisation, increasing 15% for each 1C increase in temperature.

As the now annual disaster season gets underway, several regions have already been hit with floods this year, including France and Italy. In the last weeks Kazakhstan and Russia have been hit with “biblical” flooding after the rapid melting of the winter’s heavy snowfall caused the connecting river to burst its banks.

The Kazakh Agricultural Ministry announced this week that thousands of farm animals have drowned as a result of flooding and over 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

Russia has declared a federal emergency after thousands of people were likewise evacuated from their homes in the Russian city of Orsk in Russia’s Orenburg region, close to the Kazakh border. The extensive damage has sparked a rare protest by residents, demanding swift action and compensation from the devastating flooding that has left the city submerged.

In a related disaster, 2.9mn head of livestock died in Mongolia by a “dzud”, an extreme winter where temperatures plunge to the point where the normally hardy cattle and sheep freeze to death on their feet and the country is plagued by extreme snowfall. There too more than a quarter of million people were affected by the dzud this year.