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Record rainfall forces Gulf cities to rethink climate change

A climate change monitor estimates that global warming made the Gulf deluge 10-40% more intense than it would have been in the pre-industrial era.
Motorists drive along a flooded street following heavy rains in Dubai early on April 17, 2024.

Several flights to and from Dubai International Airport were canceled May 2 as heavy rains and thunderstorms returned. Distance learning and work from home were advised in preparation for unstable weather across the United Arab Emirates. 

This weather was less severe than the storm that hit the Gulf country last month. On April 16, a day after Dubai's major airport was named the world’s busiest international airport for the 10th consecutive year, the facility and its flooded runways became the face of the United Arab Emirates' worst rainfall on record. 

More than 142 millimeters (5.6 inches) of rain fell in Dubai over a 24-hour period, paralyzing the Gulf’s business hub and leaving a wide swath of damage. In the days that followed, the UAE allocated $544 million to compensate Emiratis. Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum said the country has “learned great lessons in dealing with severe rains.”

The flooding, described as “a historic weather event” by the UAE news agency WAM, was a wake-up call for Gulf countries to revisit their exposure to climate risks. According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global temperatures over land stood in 2011–2020 at 1.59°C above pre-industrial levels, increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The increase is causing heat waves in the Arabian Peninsula, shifting rainfall patterns, dust storms and tropical cyclones. The research network World Weather Attribution estimated that climate change made the Gulf deluge 10%-40% more intense than it would have been in the pre-industrial era.

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