Even with a major downturn in the oil business, the United Arab Emirates still has enough money to look at a few modest construction projects—including building a mountain in the desert. The Gulf nation, which is desperately short of rain, has paid $400,000 to the Colorado-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to study the possibility of boosting rainfall with an artificial mountain, Arabian Business reports. The UAE spent $558,000 on cloud-seeding, a process meant to increase the amount of rain produced by clouds, last year alone; lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes explains that a mountain would cause air to rise, creating more clouds to seed, though they're not entirely sure how tall the mountain should be. "Building a mountain is not a simple thing," he says. The next step will be to submit the team's plan to an engineering firm.
Experts seem to think the idea is as outlandish as it sounds. "I really doubt that it would work," Oxford physics professor Raymond Pierrehumbert tells Vocativ. "You'd need to build a long ridge, not just a cone, otherwise the air would just go around," he explains, adding that even if that was possible, under local conditions, "it's really unlikely to work as there is very little evidence that cloud seeding produces much rainfall." He says no mountain will change the fact that the area is a desert, and the UAE would be far better off "putting the money into solar-powered desalination plants." Exactly how much money the project would cost isn't clear, though the Washington Post notes that a plan to give the Netherlands its first tall mountain had an estimated price tag of up to $230 billion—and was only found to be feasible if the mountain was hollow. (Norway has so many mountains it can give them to its friends.)