Forecasts and warnings of sand and dust storms in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa are now more readily accessible thanks to a new website designed to meet growing user needs for more information on these major hazards which affect weather, climate, the environment, health and economies in many parts of the world.
The website is operated by a consortium of the Meteorological State Agency of Spain (AEMET) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS), which supports WMO’s Regional Centre for Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe of the Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS).
The Barcelona Dust Regional Center plays an important role in producing operational SDS-WAS products and in supporting research. It has helped develop tailored products for African countries and build capacity to use and disseminate the warnings and forecasts. There is an increasing need for accurate information and predictions, particularly over desert regions, such as Sahara and the Middle East, in order to support the development of early warning systems and mitigation plans.
Since 2010, the website provides access to available dust forecasts and observations, as well as to relevant information on the advances of mineral dust research. The user community embraces different sectors, such as solar energy plant managers, aviation professionals and policymakers from the environmental and public health sectors.
The number of visits to the website has substantially increased to around 10 000 visits per month. To meet the rising demand, the website was totally redesigned, allowing for many more functionality and easier accessibility. The new version was launched on 20 January 2022 and is open for users at dust.aemet.es.
The regional centre for Northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe uses the MONARCH atmospheric modelling system as its reference model and its ensemble forecasts include 12 different models from many countries. It is one of three regional nodes. The other two are Asia; and Pan-America. All the activities are coordinated on the regional level by Regional Steering Groups (RSGs), and on the global level by the Steering Committee of the SDS-WAS.
Sand and dust storms are common meteorological hazards in arid and semi-arid regions that generate large amounts of airborne mineral dust particles. Dust particles lifted by strong winds reduce visibility to near zero in regions near the sources and are regularly carried over distances of thousands of kilometres before being deposited over the land and ocean.
Some 40% of aerosols in the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) are dust particles from wind erosion. Aerosols, particularly mineral dusts, impact weather as well as global and regional climate.
Sand and dust storms have become a serious global concern in recent decades due to their significant impacts on the environment, health, agriculture and socio-economic well-being. Their impacts are felt in many regions of the world and tackling them is aligned with several targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) established by the United Nations (UN).
We encourage you to utilize the products and services provided by the new web site, available at https://dust.aemet.es/
WMO Sand and Storm animation is here