Overview & History
The SDS-WAS mission is to enhance the ability of countries to deliver timely and quality sand and dust storm forecasts, observations, information and knowledge to users through an international partnership of research and operational communities.
The SDS-WAS, as an international framework linking institutions involved in SDS research, operations and delivery of services, addresses the following objectives:
- Provide user communities access to forecasts, observations and information of the SDS through regional centres connected to the WMO Information System (WIS) and the World Wide Web.
- Identify and improve SDS products through consultation with the operational and user communities
- Enhance operational SDS forecasts through technology transfer from research
- Improve forecasting and observation technology through coordinated international research and assessment
- Build capacity of relevant countries to utilize SDS observations, forecasts and analysis products for meeting societal needs
- Build bridges between SDS-WAS and other communities conducting aerosol related studies (air quality, biomass burning, etc.)
For countries in and downwind of arid regions, airborne sand and dust presents serious risks to the environment, property and human health. Impacts on health include respiratory and cardio-vascular problems, eye infections and in some regions, diseases such as meningitis and valley fever. Dust can carry irritating spores, bacteria, viruses and persistent organic pollutants. It can also transport nutrients to parts of the world oceans and affect marine biomass production. Other impacts include negative effects on the ground transport, aviation, agriculture and generation of solar energy. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognizes dust as a major component of atmospheric aerosol that is an essential climate variable. More and more dust particles are considered by atmospheric researchers to have important effects on weather through feedback on atmospheric dynamics, clouds and precipitation formation.
After the need for international coordination of a diverse community dealing with the societal impacts of sand and dust storms, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has taken the lead with international partners to develop and implement a Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS).
On the 12 to 14 September 2004, an International Symposium on Sand and Dust Storms was held in Beijing at the China Meteorological Agency followed by a WMO Experts Workshop on Sand and Dust Storms. The recommendations of that workshop led to a proposal to create a WMO Sand and Dust Storm Project coordinated jointly with the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW). This was approved by the steering body of the World Weather Research Programme (WWRP) in 2005. Responding to a WMO survey conducted in 2005, more than forty WMO Member countries expressed interest in participating in activities to improve capacities for more reliable sand and dust storm monitoring, forecasting and assessment.
In 2006, the steering committee of the Sand and Dust Storm Project proposed the development and implementation of a Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS). The WMO Secretariat in Geneva formed an Ad-hoc Internal Group on SDS-WAS consisting of scientific officers representing WMO research, observations, operational prediction, service delivery and applications programmes such as aviation and agriculture.
In May 2007, the 14th WMO Congress endorsed the launching of the SDS-WAS and welcomed the strong support of Spain to host a regional centre for the European/African/Middle East node of SDS-WAS and to play a lead role in implementation. In August 2007, the Korean Meteorological Administration hosted the 2nd International Workshop on Sand and Dust Storms highlighting Korean SDS-WAS activities as well as those of Asian regional partners. From 7 to 9 November 2007, Spain hosted the WMO/GEO Expert Meeting on SDS-WAS at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. This consultation meeting brought one hundred international experts together from research, observations, forecasting and user countries especially in Africa and the Middle East to discuss the way forward in SDS-WAS implementation.
In early 2008, the WMO accepted the offer of the China Meteorological Agency to host a regional centre for the SDS-WAS Asia/Central-Pacific node of SDS-WAS. In June 2008, the 60th Executive Council of WMO welcomed the initiatives towards the development of SDS-WAS, to assist Members to gain better access to services related to sand and dust storms prediction and warning advisories through capacity building and improved operational arrangements. It also welcomed the establishment of the two SDS-WAS regional centres and requested the Commission of Basic Systems (CBS) in charge of operations to collaborate with the Commission for Atmospheric Science (CAS) in charge of research to develop and establish operational procedures to determine the future role of the centres with the appropriate operational and research capabilities.
The Regional nodes
The Regional Steering Group (RSG) for Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe (NA-ME-E) held meetings in Tunis-Carthage, Tunisia (November 2008), Antalya, Turkey (November 2011) and Castellaneta Marina, Italy (June 2014). The corresponding Regional Center was created in 2010 in Barcelona, Spain, and it is jointly managed by the Spanish State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS). Its web portal http://sds-was.aemet.es includes: in-situ and remote-sensing dust-relevant observations, daily experimental dust forecasts from several organizations, information and training material from several past workshops, and news for the SDS-WAS community. Detailed description on all these issues can be found in its 2010-2012 Activity Report.
The RSG for Asia held meetings in Beijing, China (November, 2008), Seoul, Korea (October 2009) and Tsukuba, Japan (March, 2012). The Regional Center is hosted by the China Meteorological Administration in Beijing, China. Its products are available at http://www.sds.cma.gov.cn.
In 2012, the Regional Center for the Americas was created in Orange, California, hosted by the Chapman University, and is currently moving to the University of Arizona. Finally, as a result of a recent collaboration between WMO and UNEP, and following a large interest of countries in Western Asia, another possible activity node could be established for this region in the future (Cuevas, 2013).
From research to operations
In May 2013, in view of the demand of many national meteorological services and the good results obtained by the SDS-WAS, which proves the feasibility and the need to begin developing operational services beyond the scope of R&D, the WMO Executive Council designates the consortium formed by AEMET and the BSC-CNS to create in Barcelona the first Regional Specialized Meteorological Center with activity specialization on Atmospheric Sand and Dust Forecast (RSMC-ASDF). The Center, which is called Barcelona Dust Forecast Center, started operations in March 2014, generates and distributes operational predictions for Northern Africa (north of equator), Middle East and Europe.