Pittsburgh, US: Researchers based at the University of Pittsburgh developed a method for predicting dust and sandstorms that uses infrared satellite images to determine when conditions are ripe for the destructive phenomena, a technique that could be implemented globally and that the research team used to forecast a 2008 New Mexico dust storm—the area’s largest in decades—two days beforehand.
Thermal and visible images of New Mexico’s White Sands Dune Field captured by NASA’s Earth-orbiting ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflectance Radiometer) instrument reliably indicated when soil moisture levels were low enough to result in a dust storm, reports the Journal of Geophysical Research Earth Surface.
Lead author Stephen Scheidt, a research associate in Pitt’s Department of Geology and Planetary Science; Michael Ramsey, a Pitt associate professor of geology and planetary science and member of NASA’s ASTER science team; and Nicholas Lancaster of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute further determined that this approach could be expanded into a worldwide system to monitor areas prone to dust storms or to track drought in regions threatened by desertification.
The group analysed day and night-time images of White Sands ASTER captured between May 2000 and March 2008.
Source: University of Pittsburgh