Dusty February in the Middle East
On January 31 a severe dust storm broke out in Northern Africa. The dust plume moved rapidly north-eastwards, affecting Greece and Turkey. Ferry traffic and flights were interrupted.
A few days later, in the morning of Sunday 8 February, a blanket of dust from within the country swiped Riyadh. The dust cloud moved northwards to the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which already suffered severe dust storms in January, with particulate matter reported to exceed 10,000 µgm-3 in the capital, Ahvaz.
On 9th, strong winds around the southern side of a low pressure area over the Eastern Mediterranean lifted large amounts of dust from the Libyan Desert. On 10th, Egypt's two main airports (Cairo and Borg al-Arab in Alexandria) suspended landings and redirected flights. State media also reported six ports closed due to the dust storm. The plume then swept into Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and especially Israel, where caused the worst air pollution levels in five years, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry. Hundreds were treated for breathing problems and airlines were forced to cancel domestic flights to and from Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov Airport and Eilat’s airport. On 12th, the dust storm reached Iraq and Kuwait, where disrupted oil exports, as well as some regions of Saudi Arabia.
Simultaneously, blinding dust storms enveloped again much of Southwestern Iran, prompting health warnings and resulting in closed schools and offices, as well as cancelled flights. Hundreds of cases suffering respiratory problems sought medical help at Ahvaz hospitals and surgical masks were freely distributed among local residents.
On 21st and 22nd, the dust storms affected Oman. Authorities cautioned people to keep windows closed, stay indoors and step out only in case of urgency. The fifth stage of the Tour of Oman was called off.
In February, the Barcelona Dust Forecast Center website had a significant increase in visitors from the region:
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