Driving dust blanketed the Persian Gulf in late May, 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the event on May 16 as it flew over the region.
Suspended dust covers the entire region, but is especially thick in across the northern Gulf, where the tan arc obscures the water from view. The countries affected include (from upper left, traveling counterclockwise): Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Dust storms are frequent in this region, and usually arise from the fine sands found in the Rub’al Khali, or Empty Quarter. Covering parts of Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, it is the Earth’s largest sand sea. Estimates suggest that the Rub’al Khali, which is only 1/15 of the size of the Sahara, contains half as much sand. The Sahara is composed of mostly graveled plains and rocky outcrops, while the Rub’al Khali abounds with shifting sand dunes.