After Canary Islands travel chaos. Copernicus tracks path of dust plume to Western Europe



  • ECMWF/CAMS Forecasts of Aerosol Optical Depth for Sunday 23/02 at 1800 UTC (forecast based Sunday 23/02 at 0000 UTC) and for Friday 28/02 at 1500 UTC (forecast based Thursday 27/02 at 0000 UTC)

    After desert dust grounded flights in the Canary Islands, forecasts from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) can help track where the dust goes next to help both the transport industry and travellers

    A large swathe of desert dust from the Sahara swept across the Canary Islands earlier this week, turning skies red and prompting travel chaos – and also causing extreme levels of particulate matter. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) reveals how its forecasts help businesses and individuals plan against its impact. CAMS is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission.

    CAMS is continually monitoring the movement of desert dust over the North Atlantic Ocean and the latest global and regional forecasts of aerosol optical depth and surface particulate matter (PM10) are predicting that it will travel across southern and western Europe in the coming days with impacts on air quality and a number of activity sectors, such as solar power generation across the Iberian peninsula.

    By providing these forecasts of the amount and location of desert dust in the atmosphere, CAMS can help scientists, environmental agencies, energy and transportation companies, businesses and individuals make plans and mitigate its effects. It is not only transportation which can be affected by desert dust incidents, but particles from the plumes, which can often travel thousands of kilometres, can have health impacts.

    Produced twice a day, forecasts take into account the emission, transport and deposition of the dust by combining satellite observations with a state-of-the-art computer model to accurately predict the amount of dust that is generated by surface winds and how the distribution of the resulting plumes will change over the next five days.

    Greater knowledge of dust deposition can help organisations monitor air quality and also susceptible individuals who can change their plans or behaviour, such as not drying clothes outside or parking their car indoor if this is possible for them.

    Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, comments: “As we have seen from the incident affecting flights to and from the Canary Islands, dust particles can not only cause huge disruption, but affect people’s health as well. This is why it’s vital to have accurate forecasts and CAMS not only provide these, but work with companies and organisations which can relay this information to the public through smartphone or tablet apps and websites.”

    “In fact, CAMS delivers forecasts of dust and of other key air pollutants to leading applications providing air quality information to the public such as Windy, BreezoMeter, Plumelabs and iPhone´s weather app powered by The Weather Channel, ” he added.



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