Masdar Institute launches system for dust forecasting

ABU DHABI // The UAE will soon be able to predict sandstorms through new technology that provides real-time dust forecasting in the region. Launched on Monday by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the system will help inform the Government and residents about dust storms so they can better prepare. “It’s excellent to be […]

ABU DHABI // The UAE will soon be able to predict sandstorms through new technology that provides real-time dust forecasting in the region.

Launched on Monday by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the system will help inform the Government and residents about dust storms so they can better prepare.

“It’s excellent to be able to predict such phenomena,” said Dr Karim Bergaoui, climate and water modelling scientist at the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture.

“We can use the modeling and remote-sensing observations to predict it at least a few days before it happens, because I don’t see how we can mitigate such events.”

The atmospheric composition and weather forecast system is expected to help sectors such as aviation and transport, because dust causes road accidents and flight delays.

“These events can affect many activities in the aviation industry, which is the most impacted,” Dr Bergaoui said. “Airports can close for a few days, creating a huge loss for the sector, and it’s a major problem here, so it’s a good way to act preventatively.”

High levels of mineral dust and other pollutants that waft into the air during a dust storm can trigger asthma, other respiratory conditions and diseases.

“It’s an excellent idea,” said Dr Bassam Mahboub, pulmonologist and allergy doctor at the Emirates Respiratory Society, who published a paper a few months ago on sandstorms.

“When the wind blows, it creates sandstorms, which are a mixed bag of dust mites, microbes, some pollen and some sand crystals, which can be inhaled in small particles and go deep in the lungs, causing severe lung damage.”

He said such inhalation made asthma and other respiratory diseases worse.

“Even those who are not prone might damage their lungs if they inhale in [a] high quantity,” he said. “So it’s very important to protect them and find out what is exactly in these sandstorms.”

Dust storms can also coat solar panels, reducing their power output, which can have detrimental effects on agricultural crops.

The system provides nearly real-time maps of atmospheric dust and other pollutants across the UAE.

“This is a turning point in the region’s ability to properly manage the impact of dust storms,” said Dr Hosni Ghedira, director of the Research Centre for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment and professor of practice at Masdar Institute.

“This information will be useful for the transport sector, as it will help show motorists, pilots and air-traffic controllers where the dust will be and for approximately how long.”

The web-based forecasting system is available at atlas.masdar.ac.ae/forecast/.​

cmalek@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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