Spatio-temporal distribution of various types of dust events in the Middle East during the period 1996-2015

Document Type : Research

Authors

University of Hormozgan

Abstract

In recent years, an increase in the frequency of dust storms in the Middle East has been experienced. Identifying the potential sources of dust is essential to manage the hazardous consequences of dust storms. In addition, the relation between dust events and meteorological factors such as wind speed and horizontal visibility in the Middle East is lacking. The relation between dust events and topographical features such as soil texture in the Middle East is also unclear. In this study, dust events in the Middle East were classified based on horizontal visibility and the present weather reports during the period 1996-2015. Frequencies of different types of dust events, including blowing dust, dust in suspension, dust storm and severe dust storm, were estimated. The average concentrations of dust particles in the Middle East were also estimated based on horizontal visibility. Wind speed makes a critical contribution to dust events in the Middle East, thus wind speeds were also analyzed over the regions with relatively high frequency of dust events. In addition, maps of soil texture, elevation of landforms and the vegetation cover percentage, that have been obtained by the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) preprocessing system (WPS), were evaluated. The highest frequency of dust events is observed in five domains, which include Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Dust in suspension has the highest frequency among all types of the dust events studied here, particularly in southeastern Iran and central and eastern Iraq. Seasonal variations in dust activity are directly related to wind speed, such that the frequency of dust events is the highest in June and July when winds are the strongest, and the lowest in January when winds are the weakest. The maximum dust concentrations are observed in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq. The maximal frequency of dust storms in the Middle East occur in May, June and July. Due to differences in soil texture, elevation and vegetation cover, dust emission in the Middle East is characterized by significant spatial heterogeneity. Our numerical analysis shows that sources of dust in the Middle East are mostly topographical lows with heights below 400 m, including sources in Sudan, northeastern and eastern Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. Nevertheless, in the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, the height of sources of dust reaches to approximately 1200-2400 m. The upper surface texture of soil in region A (northeastern Sudan) is loam and sandy loam, in region B (Yemen and the southwestern Arabian Peninsula) is loamy sand and loam, in region C (northeastern Saudi Arabia, eastern Iraq and western Iran) is clay loam and loam, in region D (the UAE) is sand, sandy loam and loam, and in region E (Afghanistan, Pakistan and southeastern Iran) is loam clay and loam. The upper surface texture of soil in areas with the highest dust frequency is sandy loam and clay loam. The spatial distributions of the vegetation cover percentage show a sharp decline (below 1%) in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Central and Southern Iran and Pakistan.

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