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3 July 2017 - WMO supports international conference on sand and dust storms

The World Meteorological Organization is supporting an international conference to bolster international collaboration to combat the growing problem of sand and dust storms.

The conference in Tehran from 3 - 5 July is hosted by the Department of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the cooperation of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, UN Environment, the UN Development Programme, WMO and other UN entities.

Among other priorities, the conference agreed to promote policy dialogue among interested countries in partnership with relevant international bodies and organizations, and work towards a future platform on responding to issues of sand and dust storms, in synergy with the relevant parts of the UN system.

“Sand and dust storms have major impacts on human health, agriculture, and the transport sector, especially aviation services,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a video message to the conference.  “Because of climate change we see drought more often and that means that the potential for sand and dust storms is growing.”

Mr Taalas said that WMO would continue to promote free exchange of data, observations and know-how to improve sand and dust storm forecasting and so contribute to the greater public good.

Sand and dust storms occur when intensely hot air over the desert causes the lower atmosphere to become unstable, leading to strong winds that stir up vast amounts of loose sand and transporting it for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles. Land degradation, desertification and climate change are compounding the problem. Arid and semi- arid regions such as Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia and China are worst affected.

WMO set up a Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System in 2007 with a network of forecast centers which build on the central role of meteorological services in air quality monitoring. The Barcelona Dust Forecast Center provides forecasts  of sand- and dust-storms for northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe, whilst the Asian centre is operated out of Beijing by the China Meteorological Administration. It has a third center co-hosted by Barbados and USA which is serving North and South America and the Caribbean.

The conference in Tehran follows adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution and aims to share knowledge of the key challenges posted by sand and dust storms; to identify practical solutions and concrete actions to increase resilience; and to promote regional and international parterships to combat sand and dust storms. WMO video on Protecting People from Sand and Dust Storms available here

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