In the wake of drought, unseasonably high temperatures, and a deadly forest fire, the eastern Mediterranean experienced a sudden and dramatic change in weather toward the end of 2010. On December 11 and 12, 2010, strong winds, high waves, snowstorms, thunderstorms, and dust storms struck the region. At least five people died, according to news reports. The storm sunk a cargo ship off the coast of Israel, pounded fishing boats in Lebanon with 10-meter (33-foot) waves, closed most of Egypt’s ports, delayed traffic through the Suez Canal, and disrupted air traffic. Snow snarled traffic in the Syrian capital of Damascus, and airborne dust clogged the sky in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image of the eastern Mediterranean on December 12, 2010. Clouds almost cover the Mediterranean Sea, as well as parts of Israel and Lebanon. Along the margin of the cloudbank, dust blows toward the northeast. Source points of dust plumes appear in Egypt and Jordan, and a thick plume of dust blows over Syria. In Egypt, dust nearly hides the Nile River, and completely covers the Nile Delta.
Violent weather likely played a role in five deaths reported from the region, according to Agence France-Presse and the BBC. One woman died when a tree fell onto her car in Lebanon. The body of a Russian tourist was pulled from the sea in Israel. Three Egyptian workers were killed in a factory collapse, although authorities disputed the role of heavy rains in the incident.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.