This MODIS satellite image on August of 2005 captures a dust storm crossing Iraq and portions of the Middle East.
When one thinks of the desert, maybe an image such as the one above comes to mind. The MODIS satellite shows a mainly barren landscape with a dust storm scraping across portions of the Middle East.
A well-known concept is that deserts are some of the driest places on the planet and cannot support much plant life. Many deserts have a wet season where just about all the yearly precipitation falls (an amount typically minuscule in comparison to other regions) and a dry season where little if any precipitation falls. A previous article outlining the active fall weather across the Middle East is located here.
The images above are from Columbia University and showcase three-month precipitation anomalies from fall into winter across the Middle East. Notice the persistent above to well above normal precipitation across the region.
Putting all of this into perspective, the desert portions of the Middle East are bone dry during the summertime months while precipitation is much more common in periods during the fall and winter. Persistent anomalous rainfall has contributed to a transformation across portions of western Iran, as well as much of Iraq and Syria. Precipitation anomaly maps are posted above showing in some cases a three-month period where precipitation was 50-100+ mm (about 2 to 4 inches or more) above normal. So, what was the result of this excess precipitation in a desert like landscape?
MODIS satellite imagery from February 2018 (above) and 2019 (below). Notice the amount of greenery that is present across northern and central Syria, northern and central Iraq, western Iran, and even portions of southwest Iraq into northern Saudi Arabia.
Examine the MODIS satellite images above both from February (one in 2018 the other in 2019). The difference is rather astounding and significant. Vegetation exists all throughout Syria and Iraq this year, the same locations that were barren desert landscapes in 2018. This begs the question, with that amount of vegetation, will the wet season hang on a little longer with all the extra moisture from evapotranspiration in the plants? Will this not be a factor once the synoptic pattern switches over to the dry season and all the plants die off? Or possibly a combination of the two in some fashion.
Nobody knows for sure but stay tuned to GWCC to find out over the coming months and click here to learn more about Western Asia.
©2019 Meteorologist Joe DeLizio