Sand and Dust Storms in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region: Sources, Costs, and Solutions | Land Portal

Resource information

Date of publication: 
December 2020
Resource Language: 
ISBN / Resource ID: 
UNCCD:1609
Pages: 
50

Dust storms are capable of transporting sediment over thousands of kilometers, but due to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s proximity to the Sahara Desert, the region is one of the dustiest in the world. While natural sources such as the Sahara are the main contributors to dust storms in MENA, land-use changes and human-induced climate change has added anthropogenic sources as well.

Like sources, drivers of sand and dust storms are also natural and anthropogenic, as both wind speed and land management can cause them. Dust deposition has wide-ranging health impacts, such as causing and aggravating asthma, bronchitis, respiratory diseases, and infections and lung cancer. Apart from devastating health impacts, dust also impacts the environment, agriculture, transport, and infrastructure. Globally, welfare losses from dust are approximately 3.6 trillion USD, where costs are about 150 billion USD and over 2.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on average in MENA.

Besides investing in early warning systems, governments all over the world are designing policies to mitigate the impact of sand and dust storms, both at national and regional levels. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) launched a sand and dust storm warning system that aims to deliver reliable dust storm forecasts through a network of research organizations all over the world. It aims to improve the ability of countries to deliver quick and high-quality sand and dust storm forecasts and knowledge to users through an international partnership of research and operational organizations.

Dust storms are capable of transporting sediment over thousands of kilome-ters, but due to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s proximity to the Sahara Desert, the region is one of the dustiest in the world. Dust storms are transboundary, which has important implications for their mitigation, as effects are felt in different countries and even regions than their source of origin. North African dust is trans-ported to as far away as the Amazon Forest, North America, Europe, and China. The Sahara Desert is undoubtedly the biggest dust source, as its dust emissions are about four times as much as Arabian deserts. North Africa, the Middle East, South West Asia, and North East Asia are the regions with the highest dust frequencies and highest Aerosol Index (AI) values. The highest density of dust sources in the Middle East is found in northern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and along the Syria-Iraq border. Dust sources in the region are also generally found in areas with extensive desert cover, low population densities, and sparse agriculture concentrated along river valleys.

In terms of occurrences of dust storms, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf report the greatest number of dust storms overall.While natural sources such as the Sahara are the main contributors to dust storms in MENA, land-use changes and human-induced climate change has added anthropogenic sources as well. There are about three times as many natural dust sources as anthropogenic dust sources, however due to land use changes in the past few decades, anthropogenic sources have increased. Most North African dust storms originate from natural sources such as the Sahara, but there are some anthropogenic sources too. For instance, Southern Sahel, the Atlas Mountains, and the Mediterranean coast sources are overwhelmingly anthropogenic. The Middle East region also experiences dust storms from a mix of natural and anthropogenic sources. The Aral Sea is an active dust source, as well as dry riverbeds in Saudi Arabia.

Authors and Publishers

Corporate Author(s): 

The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the ordinary sense but a unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development.

Publisher(s): 

The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the ordinary sense but a unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development.

Data provider

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.

 

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