In early April Saharan dust was blown north to the UK, having a detrimental effect on air quality and leaving dust deposits on vehicles. This is a hugely important issue in arid and semi-arid regions, where dust events can be so severe that they bring nearly all activity to a standstill and even claim lives.
Most land forecasts are currently based on qualitative dust or sand index products. However, when it comes to making operational decisions, the guidance provided by these index products is relatively poor.
Armed with more accurate dust event forecasts, the risks to health and equipment could be mitigated. So the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, has commissioned Fugro and the University of Leeds to research the timing, severity and duration of meteorological processes in the North Africa region, where dust events have had a negative impact on the energy sector’s oil and gas assets and personnel.
Both organisations bring significant skills and experience to the project. Fugro has a strong reputation for the delivery of high-quality weather forecast services to Africa’s energy sector, while the University of Leeds has an impressive research history in North African meteorological and dust processes, coupled with the deployment of weather research and forecasting (WRF) framework models.
Fugro’s Project Manager, Neville Smith said, “For this exciting project we’re going to be assessing the feasibility of developing a regional WRF model that will accurately represent dust events in North Africa.
“The improved understanding we gain from this research will enable innovative approaches to be developed. These will include the application of the latest versions of the WRF and WRF-CHEM models, coupled with a fallback system in the event that the atmospheric models don’t capture the initial dust uplift process.”
University of Leeds Principal Investigator Dr John Marsham added, “Dust events are a major environmental risk to oil and gas workers and assets operating in North Africa, so the prospect of high-quality dust forecasting is warmly welcomed by the region’s energy sector.”