A series of severe sandstorms have hit Iraq and other parts of the Middle East
In recent months, an unusually high number of sandstorms have engulfed parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
The ongoing series of storms have sent thousands to hospitals with breathing problems and caused the closure of airports, schools, and government offices. Dust events have become more common in Iraq, according to researchers.
Drought conditions have plagued the country in recent years, as well as land-use changes and overuse, result in more loose soil available to be lofted into the atmosphere. The World Bank cited Iraq as one of the countries most vulnerable to desertification and climate change.
Also, long-term changes in air temperature, rainfall, wind speed, soil moisture, and relative humidity due to climate change may have fuelled the dust storms this year.
West Asia is no stranger to dust storms that can trigger respiratory problems. They strike every summer and winter. But, in recent years, their intensity and frequency have increased. Along with the reasons mentioned above, one crucial contributor is La Niña.
La Nia is a weather trend that affects people all around the world. They can influence hurricane season and raise the risk of drought in some areas.
In some areas, when you have La Niña continuously, you have a dry winter, which can affect the dust season the following year. The soil loses moisture, too. Dry sand more readily lifts in the air, leading to dust storms.
According to experts, La Nia has been present for the past two years and is anticipated to continue for another year.
What is La Niña? Is Weather pattern La Niña always bad?
During normal years, cold currents move from the Peru coast towards Australia. This cold water upwelling brings a lot of nutrients and planktons (food for fishes) from deep below, thereby increasing fish resources in Peru. These cold winds move from Peru to the warm western pacific pool in Australia, where it causes heavy rainfall.
La Niña years exaggerate the normal pattern, strengthening the normal situation, i.e., the appearance of the colder waters than average off the west coast of South America. A very strong La Niña can bring devastating news to regions.
For some farmers in Australia, La Niña’s plenty of rainfall boost the production of certain crops, while for others, too much of it damages their crops and fruits. The risk of flooding is also witnessed.
Overall, La Niña temporarily could lower down the global average temperature. 2021 would have been warmer without the cooling effect of two back-to-back La Niña events. But the increasing global temperature can make La Niñas effects even more severe. (The trends are reflected in the map.)