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