Portions of the Middle East have been experiencing an active weather pattern for much of the month of October. Looking back about a month ago, the “Medicane” (read more here) impacted a large chunk of the Mediterranean region. After this event and jogging a little farther east, portions of the western Middle East have been plagued by clouds, showers, and thunderstorms.
First off let’s look at the general 500 mb pattern across this region from October 1st to October 23rd from the NCEP Reanalysis page. Notice the dominant 500 mb ridge in warmer colors over Yemen, Oman, and punching northward into Saudi Arabia. Now notice the trough in cooler colors digging into the eastern Mediterranean. The location and interaction of these two features lead to a persistent southwesterly mean wind in the mid to upper levels of the atmosphere transporting any clouds and storms that did develop northeasterly from Saudi Arabia and Jordan into Syria and Iraq.
The NCEP image above shows the mean sea level pressure pattern through the same time frame. Notice the semi-permanent surface low pressure in southwestern Iraq and Jordan denoted by the blue colors. This was induced by the trough upstream in the eastern Mediterranean which advected mid-level moisture. This moisture, along with the surface low and the trough to the west, allowed enough of a trigger to form clouds and elevated thunderstorms for the majority of October.
The slideshow above (credit to weather.us archive) show the cloud cover and storms continuously developing and moving northeastward into the region described before. These images include “cloud tops” which assesses the vertical growth of clouds with the color scale in degrees C.
The pattern intensified the weekend of the 20-21st triggering strong thunderstorms. These thunderstorms trained over Syria and northern Iraq with supercell type thunderstorms developing right over Baghdad on the 21st. See the slideshow above for satellite images of these storms.
To top it all off, a strong cold front swept through the region with scattered thunderstorms all throughout the Middle East. Strong gusty winds accompanied this frontal passage which triggered a massive dust storm in eastern Syria stretching into much of Iraq and impacting Baghdad. Near zero visibility was reported at the Baghdad METAR during the climax of the dust storm. The slideshow above shows this incredible event (bright pink represents the dust/sand) via the dust product on the EUMETSAT satellite.
This active pattern has come to a halt as this cold front has cleaned the atmosphere of moisture and any triggers, however, the active pattern is hinting at a return through much of the region by the end of the week based on the latest model guidance.
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©2018 Meteorologist Joe DeLizio