* Technology created 50 rainstorms in Abu Dhabi's Al Ain region last year

For centuries people living in the Middle East have dreamed of turning the sandy desert into land fit for growing crops with fresh water on tap.

Now that holy grail is a step closer after scientists employed by the ruler of Abu Dhabi claim to have generated a series of downpours.

Fifty rainstorms were created last year in the state's eastern Al Ain region using technology designed to control the weather.

Most of the storms were at the height of the summer in July and August when there is no rain at all.

People living in Abu Dhabi were baffled by the rainfall which sometimes turned into hail and included gales and lightening.

The Metro System scientists used ionisers to produce negatively charged particles called electrons.

They have a natural tendency to attach to tiny specks of dust which are ever-present in the atmosphere in the desert-regions.

These are then carried up from the emitters by convection - upward currents of air generated by the heat release from sunlight as it hits the ground.

Once the dust particles reach the right height for cloud formation, the charges will attract water molecules floating in the air which then start to condense around them.

If there is sufficient moisture in the air, it induces billions of droplets to form which finally means cloud and rain.

The scientists have been working secretly for United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

They have been using giant ionisers, shaped like stripped down lampshades on steel poles, to generate fields of negatively charged particles.

These promote cloud formation and researchers hoped they could then produce rain.

In a confidential company video, the founder of the Swiss company in charge of the project, Metro Systems International, boasted of success.

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