Articles | Volume 17, issue 6
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 4063–4079, 2017

Special issue: EARLINET aerosol profiling: contributions to atmospheric and...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 4063–4079, 2017

Research article 27 Mar 2017

Research article | 27 Mar 2017

Remote sensing and modelling analysis of the extreme dust storm hitting the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean in September 2015

Stavros Solomos1, Albert Ansmann2, Rodanthi-Elisavet Mamouri3, Ioannis Binietoglou1,5, Platon Patlakas4, Eleni Marinou1,6, and Vassilis Amiridis1 Stavros Solomos et al.
  • 1Institute for Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Applications and Remote Sensing (IAASARS), National Observatory of Athens, Athens, Greece
  • 2Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, Germany
  • 3Department of Civil Engineering and Geomatics, Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus
  • 4School of Physics, Division of Environment and Meteorology, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
  • 5National Institute of R & D for Optoelectronics, Magurele, Ilfov, Romania
  • 6Laboratory of Atmospheric Physics, Physics Department, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece

Abstract. The extreme dust storm that affected the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean in September 2015 resulted in record-breaking dust loads over Cyprus with aerosol optical depth exceeding 5.0 at 550 nm. We analyse this event using profiles from the European Aerosol Research Lidar Network (EARLINET) and the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO), geostationary observations from the Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI), and high-resolution simulations from the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS). The analysis of modelling and remote sensing data reveals the main mechanisms that resulted in the generation and persistence of the dust cloud over the Middle East and Cyprus. A combination of meteorological and surface processes is found, including (a) the development of a thermal low in the area of Syria that results in unstable atmospheric conditions and dust mobilization in this area, (b) the convective activity over northern Iraq that triggers the formation of westward-moving haboobs that merge with the previously elevated dust layer, and (c) the changes in land use due to war in the areas of northern Iraq and Syria that enhance dust erodibility.

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Short summary
An extreme dust storm affected Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean in September 2015. This event was produced by a combination of meteorological and land-use properties. Analysis with remote sensing observations and modeling simulations reveals (i) transport of warm moist air from the Red and Arabian seas, (ii) formation of a thermal low over Syria, (iii) convective outflows and haboob formation (i.e. propagating dust walls), and (iv) changes in land-use and dust erodibility due to war.
Final-revised paper