NOAA RISA’s CLIMAS Team: Science Clears the Air in Dust Storm Response

Friday, November 9, 2018

NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences & Assessments (RISA) program supports research teams that help expand and build the nation’s capacity to prepare for and adapt to climate variability and change.

Interstate 10 traverses southwest New Mexico connecting Las Cruces with El Paso, TX and Tucson, AZ. Dust storms in the Southwest can create dangerous and fatal driving conditions, reducing visibility to near zero with very little warning. Interstate 10 is especially vulnerable to dangerous dust-related driving conditions as it passes through a dry lake bed west of Lordsburg near the Arizona border.

The Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), a NOAA RISA team, built on existing partnerships with state transportation managers from New Mexico and Arizona to address the impacts of extreme drought and dust storms on transportation systems. The team characterized and documented the climatic and visual conditions that exist during these storms through interviews, time-lapse camera imagery, and dashboard cameras and worked closely with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, NWS Weather Forecast Offices, and trucking companies to improve education and warning about dangerous dust storm events.