Masdar Institute Model to Allow Near Real-Time Dust Storm Forecasting

Monday 18 July 2016

Abu Dhabi - MENA Herald: The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven, graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, today announced the launch of a real-time dust forecasting system that provides accurate, up-to-date dust information for the Middle East region. The advanced dust forecasting system will help inform government officials and UAE residents about anticipated dust storms so that the country can better prepare for them. The web-based forecasting system is available online at

The limited visibility produced by dust storms cause road accidents and flight delays. The high levels of mineral dust and other pollutants wafted into the air during a dust storm can trigger asthma, respiratory diseases, and other infectious diseases. Dust storms also coat solar panels with dust reducing their power output until cleaned and can have detrimental effects on agricultural crops. Thus, through the configured and calibrated dust forecasting system at Masdar Institute, called the “Atmospheric composition and weather forecast system,” the UAE will be better equipped to prepare for and tackle the negative impacts of dust storms.

“This is a turning point in the region’s ability to properly manage the impacts of dust storms. With access to accurate forecast of dust events and sandstorms, people can better prepare for them. This information will be extremely useful for the transportation sector, as it will help show motorists, pilots and air traffic controllers where the dust will be and for approximately how long,” said Dr. Hosni Ghedira, Director of the Research Center for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment (ReCREMA) and Professor of Practice at Masdar Institute.

The forecasting system provides nearly real-time maps of atmospheric dust and other pollutants across the UAE. It is similar to the UAE Solar and Wind Atlases created by ReCREMA. These atlases provide nearly real-time satellite maps of the UAE’s solar and wind resources. Both are publicly available and have been integrated into the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) Global Atlas for Renewable Energy.

By being able to better predict the UAE’s dust storms, the country can more effectively and efficiently manage its agricultural sector, renewable energy infrastructure, transportation, health, environment and climate policy – key socio-economic sectors affected by dust storms – and provide advanced warning ahead of extreme dust events in order to reduce risk to human life.

Dr. Ghedira is part of the research team that is the first to use the advanced chemistry-transport model called CHIMERE over the Middle East to simulate dust concentrations across the region. CHIMERE is an open source model for air quality forecasting and simulation that enables researchers to enter weather and land surface parameters to produce forecasts of atmospheric ozone, aerosols and other pollutants and run simulations for emission control scenarios.

Other members of the team include Post-Doctoral Researcher Dr. Naseema Beegum Shyju and Research Scientists Dr. Imen Gherboudj and Dr. Naira Chaouch.

After gathering data on the various climate parameters that affect the region’s dust concentrations, including wind speed, relative humidity, air temperature, and soil composition, the researchers searched for the climate model that would most accurately simulate dust storms and dust emissions.

The team tested a few other climate models before selecting CHIMERE, but preferred CHIMERE’s ability to simulate estimations of aerosol concentrations over the region as well as account for dust storm’ variability. The performance of CHIMERE was validated by the dust storm that struck the Gulf in early April, which CHIMERE simulated ahead of time, demonstrating that it is one of the most effective dust models to date for predicting dust storms in the region.

Because the UAE’s dust does not originate in the UAE – it is transported mostly from the Rub' al Khali or Empty Quarter (the world’s largest sand desert encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula), Iran, and North-Africa – the model covers the wider Middle East region, including the Arabian Peninsula, the eastern coast of Africa that borders the Red Sea, and the southern part of Iran.

In a region full of dust, there are few chemistry-transport models that simulate the atmospheric dust cycle, which influences the weather system and in turn society and key economic sectors.

Researchers at Masdar Institute are responding to this through several dust-focused research projects, including a comprehensive characterization of the UAE’s dust – where it comes from, average duration and frequency of dust storms throughout the year, and its effect on the air quality. This research has found that severe dust storms are occurring more frequently in the UAE, accelerating the need for a reliable and accurate dust forecasting system for the region.

Related News