The Barcelona Dust Forecast Center has issued its activity report for 2014, covering the onset of its operations as a WMO Regional Specialized Meteorological Center for atmospheric sand and dust forecasts for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Sand and dust storms which have a major impact on the economy, the environment and people’s health and which are expected to worsen as a result of climate change and land degradation.
In response to growing concern about this phenomenon, WMO established the Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS) to provide timely and quality sand and dust storm forecasts, observations, information and knowledge to users through an international partnership of research and operational communities.
The SDS-WAS Regional Node for Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe is chaired by Dr Slobodan Nickovic from the Republic Hydrometeorological Service of Serbia and hosted by the State Meteorological agency (AEMET) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS). The SDS-WAS regional Node for Asia, chaired by Dr. Masao Mikami from the Japan Meteorological Agency, is hosted by the China Meteorological Administration (CMA). It has received valuable advice and support from the Barcelona Dust Forecast Center.
The Barcelona Dust Forecast Center (BDFC) was inaugurated in June 2014. It prepares regional forecast fields continuously throughout the year on a daily basis. The model consists of a numerical weather prediction model incorporating on-line parameterizations of all the major phases of the atmospheric dust cycle. It covers a domain which is the main dust source areas in Northern Africa and Middle East, as well as the main transport routes and deposition zones from the equator to the Scandinavian Peninsula.
On January 31 a severe dust storm broke out in Northern Africa. The dust plume moved rapidly north-eastwards, affecting Greece and Turkey. Ferry traffic and flights were interrupted.
A few days later, in the morning of Sunday 8 February, a blanket of dust from within the country swiped Riyadh. The dust cloud moved northwards to the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which already suffered severe dust storms in January, with particulate matter reported to exceed 10,000 µgm-3 in the capital, Ahvaz.
On 9th, strong winds around the southern side of a low pressure area over the Eastern Mediterranean lifted large amounts of dust from the Libyan Desert. On 10th, Egypt's two main airports (Cairo and Borg al-Arab in Alexandria) suspended landings and redirected flights. State media also reported six ports closed due to the dust storm. The plume then swept into Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and especially Israel, where caused the worst air pollution levels in five years, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry. Hundreds were treated for breathing problems and airlines were forced to cancel domestic flights to and from Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov Airport and Eilat’s airport. On 12th, the dust storm reached Iraq and Kuwait, where disrupted oil exports, as well as some regions of Saudi Arabia.
Simultaneously, blinding dust storms enveloped again much of Southwestern Iran, prompting health warnings and resulting in closed schools and offices, as well as cancelled flights. Hundreds of cases suffering respiratory problems sought medical help at Ahvaz hospitals and surgical masks were freely distributed among local residents.
On 21st and 22nd, the dust storms affected Oman. Authorities cautioned people to keep windows closed, stay indoors and step out only in case of urgency. The fifth stage of the Tour of Oman was called off.