The report also examines how climate change could increase critical areas where these storms occur.
The report includes detailed information on a new comprehensive review of dust hazards for the Americas, compiled by 28 experts from the WMO Pan American Sand and Dust Storm Advisory and Assessment Node. A dust vulnerability map focusing on health and safety impacts has been developed to support decision-makers.
According to the WMO report, the global average annual mean surface dust concentrations in 2022 will be slightly higher than in 2021 due to increased emissions from west-central Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian Plateau, and northwest China.
Spatially, the approximately highest annual mean surface dust concentration occurred in the Bodélé Basin (Chad, Africa), according to the “Airborne Dust Bulletin 2022″.
In 2022, hotspots with extremely high dust concentrations were found in Central and South America, mainly in Central Africa, Spain, the Red Sea, the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian Sea, the Iranian Plateau, the Bay of Bengal, South Asia, and Tarim. Basin in northwestern China, and the tropical Atlantic Ocean between West Africa and the Caribbean.
The WMO says that every year, about 2 billion tons of dust enter the atmosphere, darkening the sky and degrading air quality in regions that may be thousands of kilometers away, and affecting economies, ecosystems, weather, and climate.
This is, to a large extent, a natural process, although most of it is the result of insufficient management of water and land resources, explains the special agency of the United Nations.
The accuracy of monitoring and predictions has increased in recent years thanks to the development of numerical models and observing systems.
The WMO Sand and Dust Storm Warning Assessment and Advisory System (SDS-WAS), which was created in 2007, strives to improve warnings through specialized regional centers and combines operational and research work that is currently being done.
“WMO is committed to addressing this grave danger. Sand and dust storms have impacts on health, and transportation, including aviation and land transportation by road and rail, and agriculture. It affects public health and safety and the economy,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Taalas explained that “the Early Warnings for All initiative aims to improve the accuracy of existing forecasts and warning services about dust storms.
“We promote the concept of multi-hazard early warning services to group all risks in one framework. We also promote impact-based forecasting, which is central to improving sandstorm warnings and dust.
He added that, however, more needs to be done, especially in the face of continued environmental degradation and current and future climate change.
“The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, UN) and the WMO reports on the state of the climate show that human activities have an impact on sand and dust storms,” recalled the head of the WMO.
“For example, the increase in temperature, drought, and increase in evaporation causes a decrease in soil moisture. This, combined with insufficient soil management, favors the appearance of many sand and dust storms,” he said.
Critical areas for increased dust emissions
In recent decades, the Middle East region, where the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe meet, has been greatly affected by desertification processes and “alarming” episodes of dust, according to the bulletin. in WMO.
It warns that rapid water extraction and increased pressure on hydrological resources are exacerbating the problems associated with a dry climate.
The most important hotspots in the growing trend of increased dust emissions are parts of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, parts of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Mesopotamian plains of Iraq, eastern Syrian Arab Republic, and the lower part of the Tigris and Euphrates. river near the Persian Gulf, based on satellite aerosol observations.
The regions most vulnerable to long-range dust transport are the northern region of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, between West Africa and the Caribbean; South America; the Mediterranean Sea; the Arabian Sea; the Bay of Bengal; east-central China; the Korean peninsula and Japan.
The report highlights that by 2022 the transatlantic transport of African dust has invaded the entire Caribbean Sea region and this year there will be frequent invasions.
The report was published on the eve of the Latin American and Caribbean Climate Week, which will be held in Panama from October 23 to 30. Its goal is to discuss climate solutions before COP28, which will be held in Dubai in December.
Dust storms affect aviation and road transport; They reduce the production of solar plants, and spread human pathogens, all of which hurt local and regional economies.
Loss of soil nutrients costs agriculture more than $8 billion annually in the Pan-American region.
Exposure to dust particles is associated with adverse health effects such as heart attack, cardiac death, lung cancer, and valley fever in the United States of America.
The influence of 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 changes in global atmospheric circulation and the rain pattern.
According to the WMO publication, recent research assesses possible changes in global dust emissions under different climate warming scenarios.
Due to the difference between the reference years (2015-2024) and future years (2091-2100) in three different scenarios, emissions from dust storms are expected to increase significantly by the end of this century, because the pronounced warming is progressing from the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts, located in East Asia, towards Central Asia.
In the Gobi Desert and Central Asia, reduced snow cover and increased surface winds due to warming are expected to lead to increased emissions from dust storms in March.
In the Sahara, the effects of global warming may not be as obvious as in some parts of Asia, due to the lack of snow cover there.