Orbital View: Strong Winds Sweep Desert Dust Across the Persian Gulf

©NOAA

Persian Gulf

As NOAA-20 passed over the Middle East on March 8, 2020, it captured this image of dust blowing over the Persian Gulf.

Dust storms are caused by strong, turbulent winds that draw up and carry fine-grained material from dry, loose soil or sand in places where vegetation cover is sparse.

The dust over the Persian Gulf appears to have originated from the Arabian Desert and is being carried northeastward by a low-pressure system spinning over Iraq. This time of year, however (Dec. through April), may often have gale-force "kaus" winds, that blow toward the northwest, while "shamal" winds tend to blow toward the southeast in June and July.

In a 2017 article from Middle East Eye, Enric Terradellas from the World Meteorology Organisation explained: "In the Middle East, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of sand and dust storms in the last 15 years or so." Drought is a critical factor for the amount of material that makes it into the air, though the storms are highly complex phenomena that are induced by both human and natural factors.

This image was captured by the NOAA-20 satellite's VIIRS instrument, which scans the entire Earth twice per day at a 750-meter resolution. Multiple visible and infrared channels allow it to detect atmospheric aerosols, such as dust, smoke and haze associated with industrial pollution and fires. The polar-orbiting satellite circles the globe 14 times daily and captures a complete daytime view of our planet once every 24 hours.

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