Hi-tech answer to worst drought for 60 years
28 June 2005, MADRID — Spain is turning hi-tech to solve its water woes as crops wither and reservoirs evaporate in its worst drought for 60 years.
28 June 2005
MADRID — Spain is turning hi-tech to solve its water woes as crops wither and reservoirs evaporate in its worst drought for 60 years.
An international team of scientists is designing a system to increase rainfall on the country's parched Mediterranean coast, the British daily The Guardian reported.
Using a special heat-absorbing fabric, scientists from Spain, Belgium and Israel are trying to create "islands of heat," which would accelerate air currents and favour the formation of rain clouds, according to Jesús Vigo of the University of Salamanca, who is leading the project.
The scheme was announced at a mathematics conference yesterday at the University of Alicante.
In effect, scientists are trying to imitate a pattern commonly observed around cities in satellite images taken by Nasa's "rain radar".
The concentration of concrete and asphalt makes city air warmer than surrounding areas, according to a study by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre.
The hot currents rise, blow and clash with the cooler suburban air. Under the right conditions, they form rain clouds.
This so-called "urban heat island" effect makes monthly rainfall about 28% greater between 20-40 miles downwind of cities, compared with upwind, the study found.
Within two years, Vigo said, this process will be replicated with special dark fabric on the Spanish coast, where there is optimal heat, breeze and humidity. Experiments are already under way in the Israeli desert, he said.
But the process will not arrive in time to save Spain's bleached plains and shrinking reservoirs, now at 50 percent capacity.
The drought has provoked power failures, sparked forest fires, devastated crops and revived battles over water-sharing between wetter northern regions and the arid south.
And these water worries run deep, said Guido Smith, head of the fresh water programme for Spain's World Wildlife Fund.
More than 30 percent of the country is at risk of turning to desert. The most threatened area is the Mediterranean coast and inland regions of Murcia and Alicante.
Subject: Spanish news