Thursday, February 14, 2013

UNEP Global Environmental Alert Released for February: Forecasting and Early Warning of Dust Storms

This month, the United Nations Environment Programme released a new Global Environmental Alert titled, Forecasting and Early Warning of Dust Storms (Feb. 2013). According to the 14-page alert, available here,
[s]oon after a massive dust storm engulfed Sydney, Australia in September 2009, the worst the city had experienced since 1940 (Leys et al., 2011), a call was made for the development of more early warning systems to be able to predict these devastating events in the future (UN, 2009). The city was covered in dust for nine hours and suffered disruption to communications, daily activities, car and air traffic, and reduced visibility to 0.4 km (Leys et al., 2011). Impacts such as these can be quite common during a dust event and can result in great costs. Other impacts can include the deposition of foreign sediments causing cropland to suffer; compromised air quality and human health when dust particles remain suspended in the atmosphere; and reduced efficiency of renewable energy sources when dust interferes with their mechanics. Suspended dust particles can alter the atmospheric radiation balance and contribute to climatic variations (Du et al., 2002) such as alteration of regional monsoon patterns or the acceleration of glacial melt (Gautam et al., 2010). Dust storms can have high interannual, as well as annual and decadal, variability, thus it is important that more research is conducted over longer periods of time to analyze trends and associated storm severity (Ganor et al., 2010; Goudie, 2009). With increased information about long term trends, more accurate forecasts of dust storm movements can be developed, the appropriate efforts to mitigate damage can be put into place and effective early warning can be communicated.

Prior alerts are available here, dating from Aug. 2010 to the present.

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