Sand and dust storm research find answers with AI and ancient knowledge

The natural sources of sand and dust storms are mainly deserts and dry lands. In the hot months in the summertime, the strong north-easterly winds carry large amounts of particles across the region. Photo: AFP PHOTO/STR

Sand and dust storms in the Middle East and North Africa region cause annual losses of around $13 billion. Researchers at Lund University are exploring solutions by combining artificial intelligence with sustainable traditional practices. Sand and dust storms have detrimental effects on crops, health, infrastructure, and cause shutdowns. While natural sources contribute to these storms, human-induced factors have exacerbated the problem. Hossein Hashemi, an associate professor, has been studying the causes and trends of these storms. His multidisciplinary research incorporates socio-political, economic, and management aspects along with technical and natural science perspectives. The research focuses on the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Syria-Iraq border. Sand and dust storms have increased in frequency, duration, and geographic spread, potentially due to climate change and anthropogenic factors like changes in land use, water management, urbanization, and conflict-induced depopulation. Hashemi and his team use remote sensing, data modeling, and artificial intelligence to monitor and analyze the development of dust sources over time. They aim to understand the correlation between environmental changes and human activities, particularly in relation to war and land use changes. The team's innovative approach combines spatial and temporal analysis to identify areas susceptible to becoming new dust sources and examine the impact of socio-political changes on land use and dust generation.

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