An electrified dust storm over the Negev desert, Israel

Yoav Yair, Shai Katz, Roy Yaniv, Baruch Ziv, Colin Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on atmospheric electrical measurements conducted at the Wise Observatory in Mitzpe-Ramon, Israel (30°35'N, 34°45'E) during a large dust storm that occurred over the Eastern Mediterranean region on 10-11 February 2015. The dust was transported from the Sahara, Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula ahead of an approaching Cyprus low. Satellite images show the dust plume covering the Negev desert and Southern Israel and moving north. The concentrations of PM10 particles measured by the air-quality monitoring network of the Israeli Ministry of the Environment in Beer-Sheba reached values >450 μg m-3 and the AOT from the AERONET station in Sde-Boker was 1.5 on February 10th. The gradual intensification of the event reached peak concentrations on February 11th of over 1200 μg m-3 and an AOT of 1.8. Continuous measurements of the fair weather vertical electric field (Ez) and vertical current density (Jz) were conducted at the Wise Observatory with 1 minute temporal resolution. Meteorological data was also recorded at the site. As the dust was advected over the observatory, very large fluctuations in the electrical parameters were registered. From the onset of the dust storm, the Ez values changed between +1000 and +8000 V m-1 while the current density fluctuated between -10 pA m2 and +20 pA m2, both on time-scales of a few minutes. These values are significant departures from the average fair-weather values measured at the site, which are -200 V m-1 and 2 pA m2. The disturbed episodes lasted for several hours on February 10th and the 11th and coincided with local meteorological conditions related to the wind speed and direction, which carried large amounts of dust particles over our observation station. We interpret the rapid changes as caused by the transport of electrically charged dust, carrying an excess of negative charge at lower altitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Research
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016.


  • Aerosol
  • Aerosol Optical Thickness
  • Dust storm
  • Electric field
  • Electrification
  • Fair weather current


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