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Spatial and Temporal Variations in the Incidence of Dust Storms in Saudi Arabia Revealed from In Situ Observations

1
College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QL, UK
2
Soil and Agrifood Institute, Cranfield University, Cranfield MK43 0AL, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Geosciences 2019, 9(4), 162; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9040162
Received: 15 March 2019 / Revised: 2 April 2019 / Accepted: 3 April 2019 / Published: 8 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Observing Atmospheric Dynamics and Dust Activity)
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Abstract

Monthly meteorological data from 27 observation stations provided by the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) of Saudi Arabia were used to analyze the spatial and temporal distribution of atmospheric dust in Saudi Arabia between 2000 and 2016. These data were used to analyze the effects of environmental forcing on the occurrence of dust storms across Saudi Arabia by considering the relationships between dust storm frequency and temperature, precipitation, and wind variables. We reveal a clear seasonality in the reported incidence of dust storms, with the highest frequency of events during the spring. Our results show significant positive relationships (p < 0.005) between dust storm occurrence and wind speed, wind direction, and precipitation. However, we did not detect a significant relationship with temperature. Our results reveal important spatial patterns, as well as seasonal and inter-annual variations, in the occurrence of dust storms in Saudi Arabia. For instance, the eastern part of the study area experienced an increase in dust storm events over time, especially in the region near Al-Ahsa. Similarly, an increasing trend in dust storms was also observed in the west of the study area near Jeddah. However, the occurrence of dust storm events is decreasing over time in the north, in areas such as Hail and Qaisumah. Overall, the eastern part of Saudi Arabia experiences the highest number of dust storms per year (i.e., 10 to 60 events), followed by the northern region, with the south and the west having fewer dust storm events (i.e., five to 15 events per year). In addition, our results showed that the wind speeds during a dust storm are 15–20 m/s and above, while, on a non-dust day, the wind speeds are approximately 10–15 m/s or lower. Findings of this study provide insight into the relationship between environmental conditions and dust storm occurrence across Saudi Arabia, and a basis for future research into the drivers behind these observed spatio-temporal trends. View Full-Text
Keywords: dust storm; Saudi Arabia; spatio-temporal dust storm; Saudi Arabia; spatio-temporal
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Albugami, S.; Palmer, S.; Cinnamon, J.; Meersmans, J. Spatial and Temporal Variations in the Incidence of Dust Storms in Saudi Arabia Revealed from In Situ Observations. Geosciences 2019, 9, 162.

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