Mediterranean Dust Storm

Mediterranean Dust Storm

A dust storm over the Middle East in late April 2022 was triggered by thunderstorms that also brought hail and flash floods. The dust turned skies yellow, reduced visibility, disrupted aviation, and degraded air quality.

In Israel, the Environmental Protection Ministry and Health Ministry warned people with health risks, such as heart and lung ailments, to stay inside. In Jordan, low-visibility conditions caused by gusting winds carrying dust and sand disrupted aviation. Heavy thunder and hail showers and flash flooding also prompted emergency alerts. In Saudi Arabia, large hail and thunderstorms caused flash flooding.

The dust is visible drifting over the eastern Mediterranean in this image, acquired on April 24 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

The storm arose due to a Red Sea depression. Also called a Red Sea low, this weather system brings a hot air mass from the Arabian Peninsula, increasing atmospheric instability that triggers thunderstorms and dust storms, usually during the spring and autumn. In Jordan, most spring dust storms occur in April and form when strong winds blowing over dry, desert soils in eastern and southern Jordan become hotter and drier, lofting sand and dust.

According to a World Bank report on sand and dust storms, land-use changes in the past few decades have increased the number of dust sources in the Middle East, although most are still largely natural sources like deserts and dry river beds.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. Story by Sara E. Pratt.

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