Synoptic Dust Outbreaks versus Mesoscale Dust Squalls

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In most areas of the world dust storms can be classified by the meteorological conditions that cause them. In this lecture the most common situations are described, with a focus on Africa and the Middle East.

Published: 25 October 2011

The first part will concentrate on synoptic dust outbreaks, i.e. dust outbreaks related to strong surface winds caused by synoptic systems. Particular attention will be given to large-scale (continental) dust outbreaks caused by strong trade winds like the Harmattan (Sahel) and the Shamal (Middle East). The impact of such dust outbreaks on the Indian Summer Monsoon and the Hurricane formation over the North Atlantic will be discussed.

In the second part, non-synoptic dust outbreaks caused by gap winds, downslope winds and thunderstorm gust fronts will be presented.

At the end of this lecture you should be able to:

  • describe dust source regions & dust climatology;
  • detect dust on satellite images (dust RGB, natcol RGB);
  • discriminate low-level from high-level dust;
  • describe the global impacts of dust outbreaks:
  • describe the synoptic patterns that lead to dust outbreaks;
  • describe some basic cloud/dust interactions;
  • describe the diurnal cycle of dust outbreaks;
  • have the basic ability to forecast movement of dust clouds;
  • list some mesoscale phenomena that can cause dust outbreaks;
  • describe the typical size, height, and longevity of a dust squall.

Pre-requisites: some knowledge about dust sources and dust climatology and basic knowledge of the Dust RGB and the Natural Colours RGB products.

Category Language Difficulty Audio Duration Author
Atmosphere English Intermediate 60 min Jochen Kerkmann


Dust Outbreaks presentation (ZIP, 30 MB)

Dust Outbreak recording (ZIP, 88 MB)

Real-time RGB Products (EUMETSAT)

Forecasting Dust Storms CAL Module (COMET, requires registration)



P. Knippertz, C. Deutscher, K. Kandler, T. Müller, O. Schulz and L. Schütz,2007: Dust mobilization due to density currents in the Atlas region: Observations from the Saharan Mineral Dust Experiment 2006 field campaign. J. of Geoph.Res., Vol. 112, D21109.

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