Sand storm. Source: pxhere

Dust outbreak in the Middle East and Africa

30 May 2017 00:00 UTC–4 June 12:00 UTC

Sand storm. Source: pxhere
Sand storm. Source: pxhere

In late May/early June 2017, for the first time since it moved to its new IODC position Meteosat-8 spotted a significant dust event.

Last Updated

04 May 2023

Published on

30 May 2017

By HansPeter Roesli (Switzerland) and Jochen Kerkmann (EUMETSAT)

Almost as regular as a clock in the mornings of three consecutive days (30 May to 1st June) dust was lifted over arid areas of north-eastern Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani province of Balochistan, as can be seen on the Meteosat-8 Dust RGB animation, 30 May 00:00 UTC–4 June 12:00 UTC.

The Arabian dust was lifted under Shamal winds on all three days. The Balochistani dust was driven from inland out to the Arabian Sea by Sistan winds on 30 and 31 May. But on 1 June the dust was blown in the opposite direction, inland, due to south-westerly winds induced by a tropical disturbance developing over the North Indian Ocean.

It appears that in all six incidents the dust release occurred after the breakdown of the night inversion in the boundary layer at sunrise, as shown on the three Dust RGB images in Figure 1.

 Consecutive 12:00 UTC Meteosat-8 Dust RGB images from 31 May–1 June
Figure 1: Consecutive 12:00 UTC Meteosat-8 Dust RGB images from 31 May–1 June
The second Arabian dust outbreak was pushed out to the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea — even crossing the African coasts, as illustrated by the HRV animation, 2 June 03:00–15:00 UTC, Meteosat-8 Natural Colour RGB, 1 June, 11:00 UTC (Figure 2) and the Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 2 June, 02:00 UTC (Figure 3).
 Met-8, 1 June, 11:00 UTC
Figure 2: Meteosat-8 Natural Colour RGB, 1 June 11:00 UTC
 Met-10, 2 June, 02:00 UTC
Figure 3: Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 2 June 02:00 UTC

According to Kibrom Sium, from the Asmara International Airport Authority in Eritrea, it crossed Yemen and then spread widely, covering most of Red Sea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

 Meteosat-8 HRV, 2 June 08:30 UTC
Figure 4: Meteosat-8 HRV, 2 June 08:30 UTC

He added that on 2 June, from 14:00–16:00 UTC, in the Eritrean capital city Asmara, visibility was reduced to 1km, and only 300m skywards. In general the whole country was covered by dust until around 18:00 UTC.

On the HRV imagery, the animation and Figure 2, the weak flares are due to sunglint (indicated by the red arrows on Figure 4).

When comparing the Dust RGB imagery from Meteosat-8 with that from Meteosat-10 (Figure 5), the dust signal is stronger from this area due to the more oblique view from this spacecraft as compared to Meteosat-8.

Meteosat-8 and Meteosat-10 comparison

Meteosat-10 Dust RGB compare1

Figure 5: Comparison of Meteosat-8 (left) and Meteosat-10 (right) Dust RGBs.

Additional content

Summer 'shamal' disturbs life in the Gulf states (Al Jazeera)
Watch this huge wall of dust tower above Sudan's Khartoum turning the sky blood red (International Business Times)