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Climate Change may Increase in Sand, Dust Storms in Africa, Others – Report

The World Meteorological Organization has revealed that climate change may potentially increase in sand and dust storms across the globe.

According to its annual hotspots report on the incidence and hazards of sand and dust storms, as well as their impacts on society.

According to the press release on Thursday, signed by Sarah Odu, Communications Assistant, Seconded Expert, Regional Office for NCWA, World Meteorological Organization Abuja, Nigeria.

The statement said: “The global average of annual mean dust surface concentrations in 2022 was slightly higher than that in 2021 due to increased emissions from west-central Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian Plateau and north-western China. Spatially, the estimated peak annual mean dust surface concentration was in the Bodéle (Chad, in Africa), according to the Airborne Dust Bulletin 2022.

“In 2022, hotspots with significantly higher dust concentrations were identified in Central and South America, most of Central Africa, Spain, the Red Sea, the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian Sea, the Iranian Plateau, the Bay of Bengal, South Asia, the Tarim Basin in north-west China and the tropical Atlantic Ocean between West Africa and the Caribbean.

“Every year, around 2,000 million tons of dust enters the atmosphere, darkening skies and harming air quality in regions that can be thousands of kilometers away, and affecting economies, ecosystems, weather and climate. Much of this is a natural process, but a large part of it is the result of poor water and land management.

“Monitoring and forecasting accuracy has improved in recent years due to the progress of numerical models and observation systems.”

The WMO Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS), set up in 2007, strives to improve warnings through dedicated regional centers and combines research and operational work which is now being embedded in the international Early Warnings for All initiative.

In highlighting hotspot, the WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said “WMOO is committed to tackling this major hazard. Sand and dust storms have impacts on health, on transport including aviation, ground transportation, road and railroad transportation and agriculture. This affects public health and safety and economies.”

He added that the Early Warnings for All initiative contains an ambition to improve standard dust storm forecasting skills and warning services. We are promoting multi-hazard early warning service concepts to bring all hazards under one umbrella. And we also promote impact-based forecasting which lies at the heart of improved warnings for sand and dust storms.

“But more needs to be done, especially in the face of continuing environmental degradation and current and future climate change.

“The reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and WMO’s State of the Climate reports show that human activities are having an impact on sand and dust storms. For example higher temperatures, drought and higher evaporation lead to lower soil moisture. Combined with poor land management, this is conducive to more sand and dust storms.”

Over the last decades, the Middle East region, where the Asian, African and European continents connect, has been suffering from “alarming” desertification processes and dust events, says the Bulletin. Intensive water withdrawals and increasing pressure on hydrological resources compound the challenges of an arid climate.

The most significant hotspots in the growing trend of increased dust emissions are located along parts of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, parts of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Mesopotamian Plain in Iraq, eastern Syrian Arab Republic, the lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers close to the Persian Gulf, according to aerosol satellite observations.

The regions that are most vulnerable to long-range transport of dust are: the northern tropical Atlantic Ocean between West Africa and the Caribbean; South America; the Mediterranean Sea; the Arabian Sea; the Bay of Bengal; central-eastern China; the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

In 2022, the transatlantic transport of African dust invaded the entire Caribbean Sea region and there have been frequent incursions this year.

The Interaction with climate change:
The Airborne Dust Bulletin highlights the need for further research into future interactions between sand and dust storms and climate change as well as accompanying changes in the global atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns.

Recent research has assessed potential changes in global dust emissions according to different climate warming scenarios. The difference between the base years (2015–2024) and the future years (2091–2100) for three different scenarios shows that dust storm emissions are predicted to increase significantly at the end of this century as strong warming progresses from the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in eastern Asia to central Asia (Figure 3).

In the Gobi Desert and central Asia, the decrease in snow cover and increase in surface winds due to warming is predicted to cause an increase in dust storm emissions during the month of March.

In the Sahara, the effects of global warming may not be as pronounced as in parts of Asia, partly due to the missing snow cover in the Sahara.

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