Trajectory analysis of Saudi Arabian dust storms

Michael Notaro*, Fahad Alkolibi, Eyad Fadda, Fawzieh Bakhrjy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Citations (Scopus)


Temporal and spatial characteristics of Saudi Arabian dust storms, with focus on associated air parcel trajectories, are investigated using station and gridded weather observations and remotely-sensed aerosol optical depth (AOD). For 13 focal stations, an extensive pool of 84-h backward trajectories is developed for dust storm days, and the trajectories are grouped into 3-5 representative clusters based on the K-means technique and Silhouette Coefficients. Saudi Arabian dust storms are most prominent during February-June, with a mid-winter peak along the southern coast of the Red Sea, spring peak across northern Saudi Arabia around the An Nafud Desert, and early summer peak in eastern Saudi Arabia around the Ad Dahna Desert. Based on backward trajectories, the primary local dust source is the Rub Al Khali Desert and the primary remote sources are the Saharan Desert, for western Saudi Arabia, and Iraqi Deserts, for northern and eastern Saudi Arabia. During February-April, the Mediterranean storm track is active, with passing cyclones and associated cold fronts carrying Saharan dust to Saudi Arabian stations along the northern coast of the Red Sea. Across Saudi Arabia, the highest AOD is achieved during dust storms that originate from the Rub Al Khali and Iraqi Deserts. Most stations are dominated by local dust sources (primarily Rub Al Khali), are characterized by three dominant trajectory paths, and achieve AOD values exceeding 1. In contrast, for stations receiving predominantly remote dust (particularly Saharan), 3-5 trajectory paths emerge and AOD values only reach approximately 0.6 as dust is lost during transport. Key Points Saudi Arabian dust storms are most prominent during February-June Primary dust sources: Rub Al Khali(local) & Saharan/Iraqi Deserts(remote) During Feb-Apr, Mediterranean storm track transports Saharan dust eastward

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6028-6043
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 27 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Saudi Arabia
  • aerosol optical depth
  • backward trajectories
  • dust sources
  • dust storms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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