As if the Arabian Peninsula needs an import of desert dust from east Africa.
Marvel at the image captured by NASA‘s Aqua satellite of a huge plume of airborne dust covering the red sea. The image was captured at 2:05 pm local time on June 15, 2016. The plume appears to be traveling east-northeast out of Sudan and Eritrea towards Saudi Arabia, adding to the sorrows of an already troubled region when it comes to air quality.
Human activities are responsible for some 30% of dust loading into the atmosphere, but this huge dust outbreak was due a cold front caused by a cyclone centered near the Arabian/Persian gulf.
Here’s a brief of the good, the bad, and the ugly with this humongous dust cloud:
The good – The dust could reflect sunlight while stranded in the air, causing a much needed cooling effect beneath it. The dust could also be deposited over the Red sea, supplying it with the nutrients it needs.
The bad – Adverse health effects of inhaling desert dust is well documented. Asthma attacks spike during dust storms, and even previously undiagnosed sufferers could develop the condition. Non-health related issues are also at hand, like decreased visibility while driving; an issue of utmost seriousness in Saudi Arabia, at least.
The ugly – This dust storm comes at the worst of times. The region is plagues with unsustainable mining, oil extraction, and agriculture, and, worst of all, intensive military conflicts, putting severe pressure on the region’s ecosystems and life conditions. The United Nations Environment Programme predicted that Iraq, for example, could witness 300 dust events in a year within 10 years; up from 120 events per year nowadays. The World Health Organization states that dust storms contribute to poor air quality, which claims 7 million lives every year.
Image from NASA’s Earth Observatory website