Syria’s war helped create an epic dust storm, scientists say

The Washington Post reports: Last month, a thick yellow cloud of dust blanketed parts of the Middle East and extended all the way to Cyprus. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees were forced to scurry for shelter from the choking plume, while Israelis were instructed to stay indoors and ports in Egypt were shut. Health officials in Damascus, the Syrian capital, said more than 1,200 people, including 100 children, were hospitalized with breathing difficulties; in Lebanon, two women died as a result of the dust storm.

It was an unusual, unseasonal event, as my colleague Hugh Naylor reported. And, according to a team of Israeli scientists, it may have been the consequence of extreme, man-made conditions in Syria and Iraq right now.

As Israeli newspaper Haaretz notes, researchers at Ben-Gurion University’s Institute for Desert Research scrutinized the storm, the likes of which are usually seen in the spring. They found that the particles of dust kicked up were larger than anything their instruments had previously recorded (since being operation in 1995) and that the dust traveled at a rather low level. [Continue reading…]

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