Dust storm – lots of clouds–on 28 April 2016

Despite cloud cover, it is possible to detect some dust blowing out to sea from the area east of Mýrdalsjökull. It is likely that this is the Eldhraun area that was flooded in jökulhlaup in Skaftá in October 2015. In the local news yesterday there was a story about a lot of dust blowing there, but clouds completely obscured the view that day.

The wind pattern is quite complicated, but large scale fits with quite strong northerly winds.
Weather at 15 on 28 April 2016 (from the IMO web-site).

The satellite images show the dust.

20160428_modis_truecol_A20161191240 12:40 (image from NASA/Rapidfire)

20160428_modis_truecol_P20161191255 12:55 (image from NASA/Rapidfire)

14:35 (image from NASA/Rapidfire)

The story from yesterday [Dust storm in the flooded area] Sand­byl­ur á flóðasvæðunum. Sand­ur­inn æðir yfir gróður í Eld­hrauni við Brest [Dust blowing over vegetation at Eldhraun near Brest]. [Photo] Ljós­mynd/​Gúst­av M. Ásbjörns­son

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Small, tiny, dust storm on 24 April 2016

A small dust storm (rather than thin cloud) from Markarfljót area, NE of Vestmannaeyjar.


24 April 2016 at 13:05 (image from MODIS/Nasa Rapidfire).

The wind direction fits, and does the wind speed around this time.


Wind speed (black numbers), direction (arrows) and temperature on 24 April 2016 (data from the IMO).


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Dust storms on 18 April 2016

Strong northerly winds made for prime conditions for dust storms on the south coast of Iceland on 18 April 2016.


Weather conditions at noon on the 18 April 2016 (courtesy of IMO web page). Below are MODIS images from 12:05 and 12:20 that show the dust blowing off the SE-coast especially.


12:05 (Image from NASA MODIS/Rapidfire)


12:20 (Image from NASA MODIS/Rapidfire)

Today, 19 April 2016, cloudy and slower winds.

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Air quality index, loftvís

To estimate air quality, or figure out the current conditions, one needs to know the different units of measure, µg/m3, or mg/m3, and the different health limits for the different pollutants. Also, short term pollution limits are not the same as 24-hour health limits.

Examples of available data are measurements of PM10:


and H2S:

It is possible to show these in a simpler way, using an index that accounts for the health limits. Thus, a value of 1 for the index, I, means that one of the pollutants has reached it’s limit. Higher values than 1 mean that they have been exceeded, and lower values than 1 mean that the air quality is better. Below is an example for the past week:


It is clear that the air quality has been rather good lately. If we look at the whole year, we see that on 10-11 January the 24-hour health limit was exceeded (here using a running 24-hour mean), and that it was due to PM10.



We can also show more current conditions this way. Several pollutants do though not have public health limits for shorter periods than 24-hours. Also, using hourly values would lead to very rapidly fluctuating values, since short peaks (real and in the data) complicate things. Therefore I show 4-hour averages, which give good indication about the current conditions (using 50 µg/m3 for PM10 and H2S, but 110 µg/m3 for NO2, is 75 for 24-hours).


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Dust blowing in SE-Iceland

Dry weather and strong winds are causing sediment from glacier rivers to blow in the SE of Iceland 19 and 20 November 2015. There was a recent jökulhlaup from Skaftárkatlar (material blown in the center of the images below).

Wind speed at Skarðsfjöruviti shows that the wind speed, gusts, exceeded 10 m/s around noon on the 19 November.

Below are MODIS and Landsat images from around 13:50 on 19 November.

MODIS image from 13:50 on 19 November 2015 (Image courtesy of NASA/Rapidfire).

Landsat 8 image 19 November 2015 (Landsat 8 image from NASA and USGS). 

Reykjavík has also been dry and windy, and the PM10 concentration relatively high; up to 200 µg/m3 30-min averages on 18 November 2015.

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Dust storm north of Vatnajökull 17 October 2015

Large dust storm from just north of Dyngjujökull, outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, Iceland.

Good weather conditions (for dust storm), windy, dry and sunny. Gusts over 20 m/s, and 10 min wind around 15 m/s.


Data from Upptyppingar, IMO weather station.

Satellite image taken at 12:55 on 17 October 2015.


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Funded PhD student opportunity

Changes in aerosol particles and natural source material following volcanic eruptions

About the project

This student opportunity is a part of a 3 year collaborative research project, called “Changes in the health effects impact of aerosol particles and natural source material following volcanic eruptions”, between the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Met Office (IMO).

The overall aim is to analyze sources of airborne particles from ash re-suspension events and dust storms with a view towards assessing the potential impacts of these events on air quality and human health. This project will allow better modeling of these events, both the distribution in space and time and particle size distribution, which is important since different particle sizes can have different health impacts. Therefore, poor air quality can be predicted and warnings be issued.

The position is funded for 3 years and the salary for the position is according to funding from the Icelandic Centre for Research.

Role of the PhD student

The PhD student will identify and characterize ash re-suspension events in Iceland following the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull and 2011 Grímsvötn eruptions, perform measurements with aerosol particle sizers (OPC, SMPS), and use models for comparison. This will be done by analyzing data from the measurements, satellite images and other relevant data on ash re-suspension events, providing information on:

  • Frequency of ash re-suspension events, and change with time.
  • Source area and exposed area, and extension of the re-suspended ash cloud.
  • Measuring of volcanic ash re-suspension and particle properties
  • Identification of a well constrained test case for verifying dispersal models.
  • Using model results to build future scenarios.

Required qualifications and experience

Applicants should have a Master’s degree in atmospheric physics, or related environmental science disciplines and ideally have some experience with field work. The candidate should have a strong interest in environmental processes and in particular in processes at the interface between the surface and the atmosphere.

A background in programming and numerical modelling is an advantage; for instance some experience in programming or working with satellite data.

Deadline for applications is 15 June 2015. The PhD position is for 3 years, and begins in fall 2015. The selected candidate will need to send a formal application for a Ph.D. studentship at the University of Iceland in due time.

Interested students should contact

For further information please contact Throstur Thorsteinsson (ThrosturTh@hi.is; http://starfsfolk.hi.is/en/simaskra/560) and Sibylle von Löwis (sibylle@vedur.is)

The application should include the following

  1. A cover letter including
    1. Your name and contact details.
    2. A statement of interest in the project, and general research interests.
    3. The names and contact details of two faculty advisers from whom confidential letters may be sought.
  2. A short resume (CV), including a list of courses taken, and grades.

Send your application to ThrosturTh@hi.is, or as mail to Throstur Thorsteinsson, Institute of Earth Sciences, Sturlugata 7, Askja, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland.

 About the University of Iceland and IMO

Details of graduate studies at the University of Iceland in Environment and Natural Resources program can be found at http://environment.hi.is and Geophysics http://english.hi.is/von/faculty_of_earth_sciences/main_menu/home

Information about the IMO can be found at http://en.vedur.is

Additional benefit is the spectacular natural environment of Iceland.

Appointments to positions at the University of Iceland are made in consideration of the Equal Rights Policy of the University of Iceland.

At the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences about 300 people are employed in research and teaching. The School offers an international environment, with the number of international employees and students increasing each year. Currently about a quarter of all employees and graduate students are international. There are around 2900 students at the School, divided into six Faculties, including approximately 340 Master’s students and 150 doctoral students. The research institutes at the School are the Engineering Research Institute, the Institute of Life and Environmental Sciences, the Science Institute (subdivided into the Institute of Earth Sciences and Institute of Physical Sciences), and the Institute for Sustainability Studies, which is an interdisciplinary institute under the auspices of all five Schools of the University of Iceland.

The University of Iceland is the largest teaching, research and science institute in Iceland and is ranked among the top 300 universities in the world by Times Higher Education.


Throstur Thorsteinsson and Sibylle von Löwis.

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