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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Qatar Dust Storm

The weather in Qatar has been murky and dusty for more than a week now, with mild dust storms kicking up whenever the wind gets going. While there has been an improvement in the weather this weekend, things are forecast to get worse again from tomorrow, and the local met estimates that conditions are the dustiest they have been for six years.

A huge cloud of dust rolls towards the photographer in this image of a dust storm in IraqThese dust storms are a mixture of dust and sand. Within Doha itself, though, there is an increased quantity of dust and other materials, partly caused by the huge quantity of building and demolition (of older buildings) going on. These dust storms can cause allergies and illnesses, and local hospitals have reported a surge in cases of respiratory infections. Doctors are also advising asthma sufferers to purchase air purifiers or dehumidifiers to clean the air in the houses.

The immediate cause of the dust storms is the movement of wind over loose particles of dust on the ground. This causes the dust to first vibrate and then to leap into the air. As they return to the ground, they strike and loosen smaller pieces of dust which are then borne by the wind. In Qatar this wind is often caused by differences between land and sea temperature.

Dust storms can be huge things. They can spread over hundreds of miles, rise over 300 metres in height and are visible from space.

Dust over Saudi Arabia and The Middle East
Map of a huge dust storm
Source: NOAA Satellite and Information Service

Dust storms normally occur in arid lands such as Qatar, and can be exacerbated by poor management of land. Qatar suffers from overgrazing from camels, which is leading to increased desertification, something which the government is trying to combat (see Qatar Camel Farm). Conditions this year have also been exacerbated by late and insufficient rain during the winter. However, in Doha itself these causes are probably also added to by the enormous amount of building going on.

If you want to take photos of a dust storm, we advise using a filter on your camera to avoid damage to the lens. If you are lucky you may find filters in Doha in the Sofatel area, where there are several camera shops. We had to order ours from America, and are currently waiting for delivery via Aramex.

Also see: Dust storm for images of a dust storm in Qatar.

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