On the Middle East's severe dust storms in spring 2022: Triggers and impacts

Diana Francis, Ricardo Fonseca, Narendra Nelli, Deniz Bozkurt, Juan Cuesta, Emmanuel Bosc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Large amounts of dust in the air can disrupt daily activities and pose a threat to human health. In May 2022, consecutive major dust storms occurred over the Middle East resulting in severe environmental, social and health impacts. In this study, we investigate the exceptional factors driving these storms and the effects of the dust clouds. Using a combination of satellite, in-situ and reanalysis datasets, we identify the atmospheric triggers for the occurrence of these severe dust storms, characterize their three-dimensional structure and evaluate the dust radiative impact. The dust emission was promoted by density currents emanating from deep convection over Turkey. The convective systems were triggered by cut-off lows from mid-latitudes fed by moisture from African atmospheric rivers. Data from the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) showed that the dust clouds were transported southward at 4 km in altitudes but sunk to ground levels when they reached the southern Arabian Peninsula due to strong subsidence. At a station in coastal UAE, the dust caused a 350 W m−2 drop in the surface downward shortwave flux and a 70 W m−2 increase in the longwave one during the dust episodes. This contributed to a 9 °C increase in nighttime temperatures which exacerbated the effects of the heat for the population. The newly highlighted mechanism for dust emission in the Middle East, in which a cut-off low interacts with an atmospheric river, as well as direct observations of the dust impact on the radiative budget can contribute to reducing associated uncertainties in climate models.

Original languageBritish English
Article number119539
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Atmospheric rivers
  • Cut-off low
  • Density currents
  • Drylands
  • Dust storms
  • IASI


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