Starting in Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia, dust storms spread southward across the Arabian Peninsula in mid-February 2009. According to The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, a shamal—a northwesterly wind blowing through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in Iraq—initially stirred the dust on February 11.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite took this picture on February 12, 2009. In this image, dust plumes fill the sky over the Persian Gulf and most of the Arabian Peninsula. In some places, such as northern Saudi Arabia, the dust is thin enough to allow a view of the land features below. Near its southwestern extremity, however, the dust plume is opaque, completely blocking the satellite’s view of central Yemen.
Besides the fine sediments of the Tigris and Euphrates Basin, dust storms in this region can draw from the vast sand seas throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Such storms often accompany weather fronts marking shifts in temperature.
NASA image created by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.