Dust Plumes over Iraq

Dust Plumes over Iraq

Arising along a roughly northwest-southeast line, multiple dust plumes blew southeastward through Iraq at the end of June 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on June 30, 2011.

A large plume with indistinct margins appears near the Syrian border and blows over Buhayrat ath Tharthar (Lake Tharthar). Fine sediments along the southeastern shoreline of this impermanent lake give rise to another thick plume of dust. Closer to the Persian Gulf, more plumes arise. As in another dust storm on June 19, the plumes in southeastern Iraq vary in color from beige to dark brown.

Along the shoreline of the Persian Gulf, dust is thick enough to completely hide the land and water surface. Dust of varying shades completely covers Kuwait.

Dust storms in Iraq usually owe their existence to heat and silt. Besides impermanent lakes such as Buhayrat ath Tharthar, the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates hold fine sediments that can easily be stirred. As daytime temperatures rise, especially in the summer, air near the ground becomes unstable, enabling even light winds to loft dust particles into the air. Baghdad temperatures reached into the 90s Fahrenheit (about 35 degrees Celsius) late on June 30, 2011, and temperatures in early July were forecast to top 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

NASA images courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

References & Resources

  • References
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Forecasting Dust Storms. (Registration required.) Accessed June 30, 2011.
  • Weather Underground. (2011, June 30). Baghdad, Iraq. Accessed June 30, 2011.