Climate Change, Dust Storms, and Social Vulnerabilities in the United States



In the western United States, extreme weather events, such as dust storms and wildfires, are rising in response to climate change. Dust storms impose substantial risks to many sectors of USA society, including human health, environmental health, transportation safety and the general economy. Despite the high stakes, risks associated with dust hazards remain largely understudied and knowledge is rather fragmented. Gaps between knowledge and public awareness are costly for affected communities. This work presents recent advances in linking climate change to dust storm trends and societal effects in the US. Beyond well-documented respiratory and cardiovascular health effects, dust is associated with Valley fever (Coccidioidomycosis), an infectious disease caused by inhaling soil-dwelling fungi, which increased by 700% from 1998 -2021 in the same regions frequently impacted by dust events. Also unknown is the number of people killed by dust-associated traffic crashes. We developed a new dust fatality dataset merging NOAA’s Storm Events Database and DOT’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and calculated 232 dust-related deaths from 2007 - 2017. This number is 20-fold higher than that reported by the NOAA Natural Hazard Statistics. In most years, dust events caused comparable life losses to those from other weather hazards such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, lightning, and wildfires. Based on these analyses, we have compiled a map of various dust vulnerabilities and assessed the economic costs of dust damages in the United States.

Short Bio:

Daniel Tong is Associate Professor of Aerosols and Atmospheric Chemistry and Director of Cooperative Institute of Satellite and Earth System Studies at George Mason University (GMU), Virginia, USA. Dr. Tong obtained B.S in Chemistry and B.A. in Finance from Ocean University of China, PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from North Carolina State University, and received postdoctoral training in environmental policy at Princeton University, both in the USA. His research focuses on modeling and prediction of natural and anthropogenic emissions, and their effects on air quality, climate and human health. Dr. Tong is a member of NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Science Team and NOAA National Air Quality Forecast Capability (NAQFC). He charis Global Steering Committee of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Sand and Dust Storms Warning Advisory and Assessment System. He is the President-Elect of American Geophysical Union (AGU) GeoHealth section and a co-founder of the Dust Alliance for North America (DANA). Before joined GMU, Dr. Tong worked at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop the National Air Quality Forecast Capability systems, and at the US Environmental Protection Agency to develop a windblown dust emission module for the agency’s flagship air quality model CMAQ.

15 November 2023

Presented by

Daniel Tong

Event type



14:00 - 15:00 UTC




1 h



Barcelona Dust Regional Center