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Sand and dust storms 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. Some 40% of aerosols in the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) are dust particles from wind erosion.
Data repositories and archives play a critical role as the source for the observational data used in the study of weather and climate. After over two centuries of recording observations on physical media – and the last 20 years on digital media – these records are at risk.