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Global assessment of sand and dust storms
This global assessment of sand and dust storms (SDS) has been prepared by UNEP in partnership with WMO and UNCCD, in response to calls for action on SDS. The assessment aims to synthesise the latest knowledge on the science and policy of SDS and apply this knowledge to identify elements of a comprehensive strategy for SDS mitigation at the local, regional and global levels. The report is intended to increase awareness among decision-makers and stakeholders about the opportunities for managing SDS and for encouraging partnership towards combined actions for reducing negative environmental and development impacts of SDS.
SDS occur when unchecked, strong or turbulent winds combine with exposed loose soil dry surfaces. These conditions are common in semi-arid and arid regions. Sand storms occur relatively close to the ground surface, but finer dust particles may be lifted kilometres high into the atmosphere, where strong winds transport them long distances, even across continents. SDS have become of increasing concern among governments and the international community because of their damaging effects on human health, agricultural land, infrastructure, and transport. Key questions that are important to answer for policy decision making include: (i) have dust storms got worse in recent decades; (ii) to what degree are SDS a result of human activity, and (iii) what can be done to prevent them and protect ourselves from their impact?