Dust Storm in Southern Iraq A plume of dust blowing across Iraq is forming a long white streak just left of the center of this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image taken on June 8, 2004, by the Aqua satellite. The darker plume in the center of the image may be smoke from an oil fire. The countries shown in this image include, from the top right to bottom left, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Dust storms such as the one pictured here are driven by a northwest wind called the shamal (or shumal, or shimal) that can rip through the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys of central and southern Iraq at any time of the year, but which blows almost constantly through June and July.
A dust storm’s initial wall of dust and debris can arrive suddenly and can catch people by surprise. Dust storms can make it difficult to see when you’re driving a car and can lead to car accidents. Dust in the air can cause serious problems for airplanes. Dense dust can reduce visibility for pilots, causing delays and cancellations. Dust storms and Haboobs can occur anywhere in the United States but are most common in the Southwest. Haboobs occur as a result of thunderstorm outflow winds. Strong thunderstorm winds can start a dust storm that can drastically reduce visibility. Your NWS Forecast Office will issue a Dust Storm Warning if one is happening in your area.
Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC