End to End Early Warning System for Sand and Dust Storms in Saudi Arab

Sand and dust storms (SDS) are quite common in the central and the eastern regions of the Kingdom and affect the daily life for short time intervals, (Maghrabi et al, 2009). Over the last decade, scientists have come to realize the impacts on climate, human health, the environment and many socio econimic sectors due to sand and dust storm (WMO, 2016). The most important issue with sand storms is the reduction of visibility that increases the incidence of traffic accidents and may increase the occurrence of vertigo in aircraft pilots, (UNEP, 2016; Davan et al., 1991; Kutiel and Furman, 2003).

Sand and dust storm 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. The frequency of sandstorms increases during the months of March, April and May. The dust originates mainly from the arid areas across the Arabian Peninsula and transported by the southwesterly winds towards the east (Abdulaziz et al., nd). A brief life cycle of a dust storm, and how one can fuel itself, is described in Figure 1.


Figure 1 Dust Storm Life Cycle. This simplified diagram of the life cycle of a dust storm and its impacts illustrate how a dust storm can fuel itself (UNEP, 2013)

Recognizing the importance for multiple societal sectors around the world to better understand and monitor atmospheric sand and dust, in 2007, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) endorsed the launching of the Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS). It has the mission to enhance the ability of countries to deliver timely and quality sand and dust storm forecasts, observations, information and knowledge to users through an international partnership of research and operational communities (Terradellas et al. 2015). The SDS-WAS works as an international, global network of research, operational centres and users, organized through regional nodes and coordinated by the SDS-WAS Steering Committee (WMO 2015). Three regional nodes are currently in operation: (i) Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe, (ii) Asia and Central Pacific, and (iii) Pan-America.

Early warning systems create the opportunity to not only communicate a severe event, but also its anticipated impact, cost of impact and the overall level of uncertainty. With early warning people could better prepare for a dust storm by taking cover, sealing doors and windows, vacating the streets thus preventing car accidents and securing outdoor assets such as vehicles and manufacturing equipment. Forecasts enable scientists and others to observe how sand and dust storms are forming and moving over space and time. Policymakers can also use this information to determine whether or not disease outbreaks were the result of transported sand and dust or the result of human transport when taking action against health risks (Stefanski and Sivakumar, 2009; UN, 2009). A sampling of institutions and organisations from around the world that offer some forecast or warning support.

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