Recently, over eight dust storms have hit Iraq, turning the skies orange and disrupting lives.
- The storms are usually driven by Shamal or northwesterly winds.
- The winds lift dust from the Tigris-Euphrates basin of Syria and Iraq and transport it to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula.
- Iraq, which sits at the top of the Persian Gulf, helps in channelling winds.
- la nina: They can influence hurricane season, increase the chance of drought in some regions and trigger intense dust storms over west Asia
- . During La Nina, the soil loses moisture, too. Dry sand more readily lifts in the air, leading to dust storms.
- Climate change:Long-term changes in air temperature, rainfall, wind speed, soil moisture and relative humidity due to climate change may have had some part to play in fuelling the dust storms this year.
- human activities:Dwindling water underground and poor water management are significant contributors, the expert highlighted.
- Irrigation: Water-intensive irrigation systems used along the Iranian-Iraqi border are a factor too.
- Annual rainfall drop: A drastic drop in the annual rainfall rate due to climate change can trigger sand and dust storms
Impacts on the environment and society:
Impact on Heat Budget: The dust can impact the atmospheric chemistry and radiative budget, which is the balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing heat.
Pollution: Dust storms are like slow poison as they can transport a range of pollutants: Pesticides, Heavy metals, Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) etc.
Particles larger than 10 μm are not breathable, thus can only damage external organs – mostly causing skin and eye irritations, conjunctivitis and enhanced susceptibility to ocular infection.
Inhalable particles, those smaller than 10 μm, often get trapped in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract thus can be associated with respiratory disorders such as asthma, tracheitis, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis and silicosis.
Impact on India:
Affects Western Parts:
The Arabian Peninsula is one of India’s major sources of dust storms. Dust from the Arabian Peninsula reaches over the western parts of India, in Rajasthan after passing through Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan
Melting Ice of Himalayas:
The dust touches the Himalayas and can reach the Indo-Gangetic plain too, depending on temperature, wind speed and other meteorological conditions. It can also blow over Assam and Bangladesh.
The dust settles on the Himalayas, creating streaks of red and brown on the snow.
As a result, it absorbs more sun, hastening its melting.
The ongoing westerly desert winds from the Arabian Peninsula also can cause heat waves during the summer season in India which can influence the country’s monsoon.
Sand and Dust storms
- Usually occur when strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere.
- They are common meteorological hazards in arid and semi-arid regions.
- They are usually caused by thunderstorms – or strong pressure gradients associated with cyclones – which increase wind speed over a wide area.
- These strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere, transporting them hundreds to thousands of kilometres away.
- Coalition on Combating Sand and Dust Storm (SDS): The United Nations Coalition on Combating SDS was launched at COP 14.
- The key objectives of the Coalition include : Preparing a global response to SDS, including a strategy and action plan, which could result in development of a United Nations system-wide approach to addressing SDS
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