UN group says human activities fuel 25% of dust storms

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 - 5:07pm

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Major global sources of mineral dust are in the northern hemisphere across North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. In the southern hemisphere, Australia, South America and Southern Africa are the main dust sources.

In preparation for its five-day meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, this week, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) released three reports, several recommendations — and some dire news.

Every year, 2 billion tons of sand and dust enter the atmosphere — the weight equivalent of 350 Great Pyramids of Giza — and about one-quarter of it is due to human activities.

Though dust storms and sandstorms are natural seasonal occurrences in many areas, poor land and water management, drought and climate change make them more dangerous and unpredictable.

The result is often environmental, agriculture, medical and socioeconomic harm.

The UNCCD called for restoring land, protecting soils and increasing vegetation, and for improving forecasting, monitoring and early warning systems.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix began issuing such warnings in 2018 but does not track data on dust storm trends in the state.

“The sight of rolling dark clouds of sand and dust engulfing everything in their path and turning day into night is one of nature’s most intimidating spectacles." - Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UNCCD

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