Large sandstorm covers swathes of the Middle East

Large sandstorm covers swathes of the Middle East

10 February 2015 06:00 UTC–13 February 12:00 UTC

Large sandstorm covers swathes of the Middle East
Large sandstorm covers swathes of the Middle East

A sandstorm, with winds reaching 100 km/h, caused widespread disruption across the Middle East in early February.

Last Updated

10 August 2021

Published on

10 February 2015

A Mediterranean low passed over the northern parts of the Middle East between 10 and 13 February 2015, causing severe cases of dust pollution in various areas.

Large, persistent dust and sandstorms are not unusual in the Middle East, but they usually start to occur around spring.

 Dust over Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq, Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 11 Feb 12:00 UTC (zoomed in)
Figure 1: Dust over Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq, Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 11 Feb 12:00 UTC (zoomed in)

The Meteosat-10 Dust RGB animation , 10 February 08:00 UTC–13 February 12:00 UTC, shows the evolution. The dust is picked up along the north African coast on 10 February, pushed along the Nile delta into the interior of the Middle East on 11 February and hidden (together with fresh dust from northern Saudi Arabia) under the cloud deck of the next disturbance. It moved off towards the Caspian Sea and beyond on 12 and 13 February.

Full resolution Dust RGB image , Meteosat-10, 11 Feb 12:00 UTC (zoomed in)

View a dust flare seen by Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 10 February 13:00 UTC on Google Earth.




Figure 2: Dust over Cairo

The pink dust cloud above Egypt can be seen on the Meteosat-10 Dust RGB image, 10 February 18:00 UTC.

Two children were reported to have died after the strong winds caused damage to trees and buildings. Severely reduced visibility meant Cairo International Airport was briefly closed.

Full resolution Dust RGB image

Download Dust RGB animation , Meteosat-10, 10 Feb 06:00 UTC—11 Feb 06:00 UTC.

Sandstorm in Egypt Briefly Shuts Down Cairo's Airport (ABC News)
2 children killed by Egypt sandstorm, strong winds (Cairo Post)



Figure 3: Dust cloud over Jerusalem

The dust cloud over Israel (with wave structures), is clearly visible on the zoomed-in Meteosat-10 Natural Colour RGB, 11 February 05:00 UTC.

The country's Environmental Protection Ministry reported that the dust resulted in the highest air pollution levels for five years.

The winds were very strong, with gusts over 100 km/h that caused damage and air traffic delays. Despite the southerly winds the air was very cold — in Jerusalem temperatures dropped to 2–3 °C.

While Jerusalem had dust and rain the northern mountains got more than 30 cm of snow.

Full resolution Natural Colour RGB image

Dust storm causes worst air pollution in Israel in five years (Haaretz)
Severe sandstorm grounds flights ahead of rain, snow (Times of Israel)



Figure 4: Dust over Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq

Evidence of further dust, over Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq, can be seen on the Meteosat-10 Dust RGB, 11 February 12:00 UTC.

Full resolution Dust RGB image

On 12 February the cool air behind the Mediterranean low triggered a Shamal (northerly winds) situation that created the typical dust veil for such cases over eastern Saudi Arabia (although relatively early for the season).

The characteristic rapid southward movement of the dust can be seen in the final part of the Meteosat-10 Dust RGB animation , this time in more bluish colouring as compared to the dust discussed before.

A zoomed animation concentrating on the southernmost area of the Arabian peninsula reveals that, while the dust veil entered into the scene coming from the north, other dust was lifted along the southern Saudi Arabian border by noon (local) and transported northward.

Download zoomed in Dust RGB animation , Meteosat-10, 12 Feb 06:00 UTC—13 Feb 00:00 UTC.



Figure 5: Low-level wind field

By midnight (local) the two dusty air masses had converged and merged. The low-level wind field (Figure 5) and cross-section verify the almost head-to-head encounter of winds and dust. The wind data is taken from a GFS for 09:00 UTC (forecast 06:00UTC+3h).

Full resolution image


Figure 6: HRV/Suomi-NPP imagery


While the dust plumes that were rising in the mountain range between Hadhramaut in Yemen to Samhan in Oman, can be well identified on the Dust RGB, stronger enhancement is needed to bring them out in the HRV channel of SEVIRI.

When concentrating on the scene at 09:00UTC in the Hadhramaut region, a bit more detail is offered (Figure 6). The plumes aligned well with the low-level wind field taken at 950hPa (upper row, Figure 6).

There is even more information in the Dust RGB and blue channel (number M03 or VIS0.488) of VIIRS at 750m spatial resolution, half-an-hour later (lower row, Figure 6).

Essentially there are two plume bundles (also identified on the SEVIRI images),and they had different characteristics and origins. The western bundle had a relatively diffuse appearance and was rising from wider wadis or elevated plateaus well inside the mountains, i.e. these plumes must have risen at least to some 800 m above sea level in order to be blown northward. The eastern bundle was arranged in narrow streamers and started from lower levels much closer to the border of the Rub AlKhali desert.

Full resolution HRV/S-NPP image


Related Content

Cairo Dust Storm Timelapse video (YouTube/Ian Paul)
Epic Sandstorm Suffocates Middle East (ABC News)

Dust storm over the Middle East (23 January 2004)