Persistent dust storms across the Arabian Peninsula


In late February 2015, a significant winter storm stirred up dust and sand across much of the Arabian Peninsula. The low-pressure system energized strong northwest winds that carried dust from as far as northern Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait to the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, EarthObservatory writes

Sand storms are common in the region at this time of year, though this one seems particularly potent and long-lasting – five days so far.

Poor visibility has been the biggest danger, causing hundreds of automobile accidents across Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Visibility dropped as low as 500 meters at Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai.

The weather system brought rain and snow to several locations, and rough seas along the coast. Temperatures in Muscat, Oman, dropped from 38 degrees Celsius (100°F) on February 20 to 20°C (69°F) on February 24. The city of Dubai (UAE) deployed thousands of workers to clear dust and debris from the streets.

News reports said more than 21 tons of sand had been cleared from the city alone. Government authorities in several countries warned people to stay inside as much as possible and to cover their noses and mouths when walking outside. The storms are a particular danger to people with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite captured these images of the sand storm on February 23 and 24. Because of the desert landscape and the widespread nature of the event, the airborne particles are easier to see over open water.

Image credit: Suomi NPP – VIIRS. Acquired February 23, 2015

Image credit: Suomi NPP – VIIRS. Acquired February 24, 2015

Source: Earth Observatory

Featured image: Dust storm over Kuwait on February 20, 2015. Image credit: Dronodromo.com (via Twitter)

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