In early October, 2013 strong winds blew a thick veil of sand and dust across western Iraq. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the storm on October 2, 2013.
The land of western and southwestern Iraq is part of the Syrian and Arabian deserts. Wide, stone-and-scrub filled plains, wadis (ephemeral streams), and sand fill this desert region, and it is often swept by strong winds. Shamal winds, or strong northwesterly winds, are particularly prevalent in the spring and fall, and often raise sandstorms that may last for days.
In this image, a wide ribbon of camel-colored, rippling sand can be seen stretching from Syria, to the west and all the way across western and southwestern Iraq. The sand thins and spreads out in the east over Kuwait and in the southeast over Saudi Arabia. In contrast, the air over most of the Euphrates River Valley remains clear, although several fires, marked by red hotspots, burn in the greener regions.