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Floodwaters trap cars on a flooded street in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday. (Abdel Hadi Ramahi/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

A year’s worth of rain plunges Dubai

April 16, 2024

By Mary Gilbert and Brandon Miller, CNN Meteorologists

(CNN) — A year’s worth of rain unleashed immense flash flooding in Dubai Tuesday as roads turned into rivers and rushing water inundated homes and businesses.

Shocking video showed the tarmac of Dubai International Airport – recently crowned the second-busiest airport in the world – underwater as massive aircraft attempt to navigate floodwaters. Large jets looked more like boats moving through the flooded airport as water sprayed in their wake and waves rippled through the deep water.

The airport ceased operations for nearly a half hour on Tuesday. “Operations continue to be significantly disrupted,” the airport confirmed in an advisory. “There is major flooding on access roads around Dubai leading to the airport.”

Nearly 4 inches (100 mm) of rain fell over the course of just 12 hours on Tuesday, according to weather observations at the airport – around what Dubai measures in an entire year, according to United Nations data.

The rain fell so heavily and so quickly that some motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles as the floodwater rose and roads turned into rivers.

Video from social media showed water rushing through an area mall and inundating the ground floor of homes.

Dubai – like the rest of the United Arab Emirates – has a hot and dry climate. As such, rainfall is infrequent and the infrastructure is not in place to handle extreme events.

When it rained Tuesday, it absolutely poured.

Torrential rainfall events like this will become more frequent due to human-driven climate change. As the atmosphere continues to warm, it’s able to soak up more moisture like a towel and then ring it out in the form of more extreme gushes of flooding rainfall.

The rain that plunged Dubai underwater is associated with a larger storm system traversing the Arabian Peninsula and moving across the Gulf of Oman. This same system is also bringing unusually wet weather to nearby Oman and southeastern Iran.

Rain will taper off in the region Tuesday night but a few showers may linger Wednesday before dry weather returns.

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