Sahara desert

Large dust cloud over the Middle East

6 September 2015 06:00 UTC—10 September 06:00 UTC

Sahara desert
Sahara desert

Many parts of the Middle East were shrouded in a persistent dust cloud in early September 2015.

Last Updated

14 September 2022

Published on

06 September 2015

By Jochen Kerkman and Sancha Lancaster (EUMETSAT) and HansPeter Roesli (Switzerland)

Large parts of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, far southern Turkey, northwest Saudi Arabia and Iraq, were shrouded in a thick cloud of dust and sand that swept into the areas on 6/7 September. At least 12 people were reported to have died and hundreds hospitalised due to respiratory failure.

 Dust RGB, with MSLP map, 6 Sept 12:00 UTC
Figure 1: Dust RGB, with MSLP map, 6 September 12:00 UTC

The dust developed in two stages. In the first stage the dust was picked up from the winds around the thermal low (see Figure 1).

The pick-up area is the classic type of area — semi-desert shrub land in the Al-Jazeerah region and, bit later, over Northern Iraq — to form a semi-circle outlining the thermal low.

The timing (late local morning) matches the diurnal cycle of the winds and thermal low.

Later in the day convection developed over the four-border area of Syria-Iraq-Iran-Turkey that sent a blue-coloured haboob (see Figure 2) eastward into the primary dust cloud.

This merged dust then invaded a large area south west of its origin.

In the Meteosat-10 Dust RGB animated gif, Figure 2, the huge dust cloud (pink area) can be clearly seen moving southwest across the area.

 Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 08 Sept 13:00 UTC—09 Sept 10:00 UTC
Figure 2: Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 08 September 13:00 UTC—09 September 10:00 UTC

Even four days later it was continuing to affect the region. The Meteosat-10 Dust RGB animation shows the dust cloud from its formation on 6 September, 06:00 UTC, to 10 September 06:00 UTC, when it was less dense, but still covering many areas.

To detect the low-level dust over the sea, the solar images really help. The dust can be seen well in solar bands and the related Natural Colour RGB (Figure 3).


Image comparison

Natural Colour RGB, 08 Sept 04:00 UTC compare1

Figure 3: Comparison of the Meteosat-10 High Resolution Visible and Natural Colour RGB images showing the extent of the dust on 8 September, 04:00 UTC.

Image comparison

24-hour Microphysics RGB, 8 Sept 04:00 compare1

Figure 4: Comparison of Dust RGB and 24-hour Microphysics RGB, showing the extent of the dust cloud.