Dust Storms in the Sahara

There have been a large amount of dust storms in Africa over the last few month.  I hope you enjoy the read!

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Vast Dust Storms in the Sahara

Earth Observatory

“In late March 2018, North Africa endured a maelstrom of sand, with far-reaching effects. Dust from the Sahara spread north into Europe last week, coating ski slopes and Mediterranean cities in orange particles. In western Africa, tons of dust blew out over the Atlantic, perhaps headed for the Americas.

Even by the standards of the desert interior of Africa, the storms of late March have been intense. Schools and airports have been shut down in Sudan and Egypt, among other places, and a thick orange haze has filled the air as wind-driven sandstorms, or haboobs, stirred up the Sahara.

Though there is often some amount of dust being blown around in North Africa, recent activity appeared to pick up (as viewed by satellite) on March 21, 2018, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the top image. A full week later, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired the second image, a natural-color view of an intense wave of dust in northeastern Africa. Major plumes of dust were visible somewhere around the Sahara on every day between those images.

“Springtime dust from Africa is interesting,” said Hongbin Yu, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Our analysis of multiple satellite measurements shows that in recent years annual dust variability is dominated by the spring. Surface wind is likely to be a dominating factor, although soil moisture and vegetation cover in Sahel-Sahara transition region also contribute.”

NASA recently began a collaboration with a science team at Cornell University to examine the climate effects of dust storms. Researchers will build an instrument, to be mounted on the International Space Station, that can detect the mineral composition of airborne dust. Minerals of various colors, sizes, and chemistry can have different warming or cooling effects on the atmosphere.”

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Dust storms ease across Africa and Middle East
“Huge amounts of dust have been on the move in recent days causing poor visibility from central Africa to the Levant.”

3 Apr 2018

Aljazeera

“Visibility across vast swaths of northern and central Africa and the Arabian Peninsula has been severely reduced since Thursday as a large-scale disturbance has resulted in huge quantities of Saharan dust being dispersed across the region.

A low pressure system developed over the desert region of Libya and the resulting circulation was responsible for dust being lifted high into the atmosphere. It swept from Egypt and Sudan, across the Arabian Peninsula and on into Kajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

There were no reports of flight cancellations, but visibility was severely reduced and many people reported increased respiratory problems.

While much of the dust swept eastwards, some was swept up from Chad and transported southwards and westwards on the northeasterly trade wind known as the Harmatten. Niger, Mali, northern Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso have all been affected.

Chad is the main source of Saharan dust. There are two key locations here. One is the Bodele Depression – the dried up remains of the ancient Lake Megachad.

The other is the Tibesti mountain area in the north of the country. Here, the volcanic mountains are rapidly eroded to dust by the harsh climate.

On a positive note, this mineral dust has great benefits. It will eventually find its way around much of the globe before being deposited in the Caribbean, Asia, South America, Europe and elsewhere.

The dust helps to build soil fertility, being rich in phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron, depending on its source.”

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Dust storm slams Senegal
“The severe weather signals a dramatic start to the country’s rainy season.”

30 Jun 2018

Aljazeera 

“A sandstorm has battered Senegal leaving livestock dead and damaging the newly opened airport.

A wall of dust swept across the capital, Dakar, reducing visibility and bringing winds gusting to 90 kilometres per hour.

This type of dust storm is known as a “haboob” and is common in some parts of the world, such as the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara and the desert southwest of the US. However, it is believed to be the first time that such a storm has churned over Senegal.

The word haboob is thought to have originated from Sudan and comes from the Arabic word for wind. The storms are formed when air blows strongly downwards, towards the ground, picking up vast amounts of dust. This usually happens as the result of a decaying thunderstorm.

The strong winds led to the death of a number of livestock and caused damage to the airport.

Planes were damaged, as was the terminal building, which only opened six months ago.

The haboob was followed by thunderstorms, which brought heavy rain and signalled the start of Senegal’s rainy season, which runs until October.”

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