Delhi air pollution: Residents of the National capital and its neighbouring areas woke up to severe air quality crisis during the last week of October and the early weeks of November. While people believed stubble burning, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Haryana and Punjab governments, even the Centre are to blame, little did they know that a dust storm from 3000 kms away was more to be blamed for choking the national capital than anything else. According to a report issued by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences on November 16, the ‘Gulf dust storm’ was a major contributor to the pollution in the area. SAFAR published a report known as the ‘Scientific Assessment of Delhi Winter Air Quality Crisis’ for November 6 to 16 and it listed to ‘extreme’ events behind the smog that smothered Delhi and its neighbourhood.
As per the report, “‘Extreme 1’, was a large multi-day dust storm that emerged at Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the last week of October 2017 and continued up to November 3-4.” Thereafter, “‘Extreme 2’ was stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.” “The pollution contribution of Gulf dust storm on peak day (November 8) was around 40% and from stubble burning was 25%,” as per the SAFAR report.
Here is how Gulf dust storm from 3,000 km away triggered smog in national capital-
According to a note released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on October 29 that was aboard the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite captured images of a massive dust and sandstorm over Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The storm was ‘reported to have originated in northern Syria and Iraq.’ According to Al-Monitor, a US-based online newspaper that covers the Middle East, media reported that the storm triggered over 4,000 cases of suffocation across Iraq’s governorates, forcing Iraq’s civil aviation authority to shut down flights.
The SAFAR report while talking about the Gulf storm affecting the National capital and neighbouring areas further stated that during the later October-early November, the dust storm “was carried (eastward) by relatively cool winds”. While explaining the whole thing, it added, “As air temperatures dropped, winds and dust were likely to slowly diminish, but by that time, it got into the upper part of atmosphere (1.5-3 km, 700-850 hpa) where winds became very strong (15-20 km/hr) and direction became towards India (westerly, north-westerly) and dust affected the larger region of NCR including Delhi.”