Qatar National Library organized a fascinating talk, “Dust Storms from Mars and Titan to Qatar”, at this month’s meeting of the Science Book Forum, on 12 May.
Dr. Nicholas Middleton from the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, discussed the unique phenomena of dust storms that occur in deserts, sharing with participants their origin, evolution and how they have shaped Qatar’s landscape and environment.
Offering a broad perspective, the lecture also traced how dust storms in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula can have an environmental impact as far as the West Coast of the United States. Dust storms also occur on other celestial bodies, such as comets, Mars and the Saturn moon, Titan.
Commenting on the impact of dust storms in Qatar, Dr. Middleton, said: “If the sources of dust storms are within Qatar, it is easily preventable by building barriers and taking a variety of other measures. It becomes difficult to restrict the impact of dust storms that come from outside of Qatar, but certain measures can be taken to ameliorate their impact.”
Dr. Middleton added: “It is crucial for scientists and researchers to better understand the sources of dust storms and identify their impact on human society. We also need to understand how people can better mitigate their impact.”
James Glover, a student at the International School of London Qatar, attending the event, said: “I learned why sand storms happen, and how they impact people’s health. I now know why and how people with asthma should protect themselves from these storms.”
Another participant, Eleanor Hattar, said: “I found the lecture to be very informative and related to our science courses. We will use the knowledge we learned today to complement our studies at school.”
Dr. Essam Heggy, Chair of the Science Book Forum, said: “The event focused on a key landscape feature of Qatar, and how dunes are being formed. The lecture gave our participants a wider understanding of the physics of dust formation and how these storms shape the landscape and contribute to shaping Qatar’s map.”
“People need to know about this because these dust storms shape many of the environmental and economic activities in Qatar. For example, solar energy production depends on the way we understand dust formation. The longevity and sustainability of our buildings and structures also depend on the dust storms and how they erode these structures. In addition, the storms have an impact on our lives in terms of health and environmental issues,” added Dr. Heggy.