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UAE Looks to Man-Made Mountain for Rainmaking

The proposed mountain would be the biggest planetary engineering project ever. Continue reading →

One thing about the United Arab Emirates is that they like to think big -- whether it's building the world's tallest structure, the 2,716-foot-tall Burj Khalifa skyscraper, or dredging 90 million square feet of rock, soil and sand to create the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island archipelago whose fronds can be seen from space. It's the sort of place where they put an indoor ski slope inside a apartment tower so massive that it will provide homes for 78,000 people.

But even those supersized projects may be dwarfed by what reportedly may be the UAE's next really big thing - an artificial mountain, large enough to alter weather patterns and increase rainfall.

The news website Arabian Business reports that the Middle Eastern nation is contemplating construction of a man-made peak, and that experts from the U.S.-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research are working on a modeling study to determine how high and what sort of slope would be required to influence the weather.

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A mountain can help to cause rainfall, because its presence alters winds and causes them to lift air containing evaporation upward, which promotes cloud formation. Those clouds, in turn, can be seeded to stimulate precipitation. Over the past decade, UCAR has been involved in a massive weather-modification project in Wyoming, which involves seeding clouds over the Medicine Bow, Sierra Madre and Wind River mountain ranges in an effort to boost snowfall by 10 percent.

However, as UCAR weather modification researcher Roelof Bruintjes told Arabian Business: "Building a mountain isn't a simple thing."

To the contrary, planetary engineering on that scale is something that so far only exists in the imagination of visionaries. Back in 2009, German architect Jakob Tigges proposed building a 3,280-foot artificial mountain called The Berg on the outskirts of Berlin to create recreation for urban dwellers and a wildlife habitat. That project never got beyond the drawing board.

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The sheer scale of a mountain would make for a daunting construction project. Japan's 12,338-foot-tall Mount Fuji, for example, is estimated to weigh about 1 trillion tons. Where builders would get enough raw material to create something that enormous remains unclear. Building it from artificial materials might require as much as one-quarter of the world's 2015 concrete output.

Also, in addition to promoting rainfall in some areas, mountains also can inhibit rainfall, though the rain shadow effect. That means that the land on the wrong side of an artificial mountain might become even more parched.

Jabal Sawda, at 10,278 feet, is the tallest mountain on the Arabian peninsula. UAE officials reportedly are considering building an artificial mountain.

It might sound a bit cramped, but there's an entire world of organisms that can call a drop of water their home. And, up close, they look practically out-of-this-world. Each year, the Nikon Small World competition sets out to collect some of the best microphotography. Take a look at some of this year's most stunning images of creatures that live in water. This photo from Dr. Jan Michels of Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel in Kiel, Germany shows Temora longicornis, a marine copepod, from its ventral view at 10 times magnification.

SEE MORE PHOTOS: It's a Nikon Small World After All

This microphotograph shows the diatom Melosira moniliformis at 320 times its size.

This algae biofilm photographed up-close makes what's usually referred to as "pond scum" look like art.

This Philodina roseola rotifer was alive and well when this microphotograph was taken.

This microphoto shows a water flea flanked by green algae.

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Warfare in a water droplet! This microphoto shows a Hydra capturing a water flea at 40-times magnification.

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One of the ultimate human pests -- the mosquito -- begins life as larvae, here shown suspended in a single droplet of water.

Ever wonder what sex between two freshwater ciliates looks like magnified at 630 times its actual size? Now you know!

This freshwater water flea is shown at 100 times its actual size.

Closterium lunula, a kind of green alga, is shown here. This particular specimen came from a bog pond, according to the photographer.

While it may resemble a visitor from outer space, this is what a zebrafish embryo looks like under a microscope, three days after being fertilized.

This microscopic crustacean appears yellowish-orange because it is mounted in Canada Balsam with crystals and other artifacts.

A white-spotted bamboo shark's embryonic pectoral fin makes for a stunning image under a microscope.

SEE MORE PHOTOS: It's a Nikon Small World After All