Middle Eastern deserts help alleviate droughts in South Asia: study

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Large dust storms from the Middle East deserts carried to the Arabian Sea could improve rainfall over South Asia, especially during extreme drought spells over India.

According to a study by researchers from IIT Bhubaneswar, deserts are the regions in the Middle East that receive the least rainfall among all biomes, however, they are known to modulate global and regional climate through various pathways.

The study was published recently in the journal Nature Publishing Group Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Read also | India’s coastal cities could be flooded by 2050: report

The first indication of this was provided by a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience in 2014 by the same team and collaborators abroad.

This study showed that desert dust aerosols emitted from the Middle Eastern/Arabian and North African deserts increase rainfall over India on short timescales of about a week or two.

This is made possible thanks to the warming induced by this dust on the Arabian Sea, which acts as a source of energy to accelerate the circulation of the monsoon (winds, humidity) towards the Indian region. This relationship is now stronger during drought years associated with El-Nino. They also indicate that this dust-induced increase in precipitation is widespread throughout the South Asian monsoon domain, often occurring as a pulse that triggers a short-term increase in precipitation in an otherwise situation. dried.

“India has been facing large-scale droughts or deficits and changes in the spatial pattern of monsoon rainfall due to ongoing climate change. However, with global warming in place and changing winds, we can expect an increase in dust storms in the deserts of the Middle East in the coming years.This dust can be transported to the Arabian Sea under favorable conditions and trigger short periods of heavy rain on the Indian region. In other words, nature makes up for the deficit created by human activities,” said V Vinoj, Assistant Professor, School of Earth, Ocean and Climate Sciences, IIT Bhubaneswar.

In a press release carried by Climate Trends, he said: “It is well established that anthropogenic factors reduce rainfall and continue to do so over a long period (decades). Yet the silver lining is that there is a short period of respite from this drought trend in the form of a short-lived (about a week or so) increase in precipitation. With the increasing potential for El-Nino-like conditions in the future, these dust-induced effects will become increasingly important in understanding the changing patterns of rainfall in India.

Dr Vinoj said recent studies have shown a decrease in desert dust over India due to increased pre-monsoon rains over northwestern parts of India, potentially due to the effects regions of climate change.

“However, human activities with associated emissions will continue to increase due to the country’s economic development. Additionally, increased dust over Middle Eastern deserts carried over the Arabian Sea increases short-term rainfall over India. Thus, on the one hand, the dust emitted over India is decreasing, while the dust over the Arabian Sea is increasing, leading to increased precipitation. It will be interesting to see how these changes have a combined impact on air quality and precipitation,” he added.

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