Relentless downpours in a desert are rare. And when two years’ worth of rain falls in just one day, it’s bound to cause trouble.

Advanced modeling from Baron Weather provided up to five days’ notice that a high-impact and extremely rare heavy rain event would occur across the southeastern Arabian Peninsula earlier this week.

Impacts from the Dubai Extreme Flood

An airplane taxies through floodwaters at the Dubai International Airport (@jamiebsmith/Twitter)

3.6 million people awoke to a shocking turn of events in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 's second-most populous city Tuesday. According to the Dubai Meteorological Office, over a half foot of rain was recorded in the desert city in just 24 hours. This was twice the yearly average (3.12 inches), surpassing anything documented since 19491.

The flooding resulted in at least 18 deaths in neighboring Oman and widespread travel disruptions across a large portion of both countries, including the closure of the world’s second busiest airport in Dubai2.

In the hours following the floods, some social media users wrongly attributed the extreme flood to cloud seeding, a practice the UAE has used for decades to help address water shortages. However, experts say that cloud seeding would have had little effect in a weather scenario like this and that it was not deployed due to the warning of high flooding across the Gulf3.

Five-Day Lead Time for the Extreme Flood 

The Baron Weather Extreme Weather Index is a first-of-its-kind global tool to assess risk from multiple hazards using local climatology and severity. The Index is unique because it considers how atypical the weather threat is from global historical norms on a simple impact-based scale. The potential for high winds, hail, heavy rain, heavy snow, and extreme temperatures are all assessed using a simple scale that correlates to likely impacts at a given location.

The first signs of heavy rain appeared on the Extreme Weather Index for the UAE seven days before the event. Every run of the Baron model starting April 10, five days before the flooding began, consistently showed a level three—the highest available for this product.

Animation of successive model runs from the Baron Extreme Weather Index.
Successive runs of the Baron Extreme Weather Index model leading up to the flooding in Dubai, beginning April 10, 2024.

According to the model's definition, a level three on the Extreme Weather Index for heavy rain equates to “Widespread flooding (or flash flooding) likely to cause infrastructure damage or disruption.”

With so many forecast services and models available today, I asked Baron Data Services Manager Matt Havin what makes the Extreme Weather Index unique.

“It really goes to that next level,” he said. “It considers how extreme a situation is compared to historical data for the same location. It then factors in severity to produce a real-life impact scale that is easy to understand.”

A forecast model can tell us how much rain may fall in any given location over time. However, the magnitude of its impact is not always explicitly related to that number. For example, six inches of rain in Florida over a 24-hour period is unlikely to cause the same degree of flooding Dubai experienced earlier this week from the same amount.

“Forecast models can certainly help us forecast the severity of an event, but it’s not always easy to understand the human impacts it may cause,” Havin added. 

This is why Baron’s innovation team created the Extreme Weather Index. It empowers emergency preparedness and response professionals to identify, track, and respond to the likely impacts of a major weather event up to ten days in advance. The dataset is available through the Baron Weather API, in the Baron Threat Net application, or as layers in your GIS mapping application.

1 Dubai airport flooded, and flights are hit as storm dumps record rain on UAE | AP News
2 Storm dumps record rain across the desert nation of UAE, floods Dubai's airport: AP explains | AP News
3 What is cloud seeding, and did it cause flooding in Dubai? (