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Monitoring dust storms to give asthma sufferers a breather

Just last Wednesday, a ‘freak’ dust storm ripped through northern India, killing over 100 people, toppling homes and trees and leaving hundreds without electricity.

Besides causing injury and death through falling trees or debris or through mass motorway pile-ups, dust storm are carrying a more dangerous load than meets the eye: if small enough, the suspended particles can slip past a body’s natural defences – nose hairs, for example – to infiltrate and damage one’s respiratory system, triggering a spike in asthma attacks and also leading to previously undiagnosed sufferers developing the condition.

The National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS) is the pioneering Egyptian institution in the field of satellite remote sensing and plays a vital role in predicting dust storms by observing and simulating how they are formed over space and time. Dr. Islam Abou El-Magd and his team monitor, in particular, air quality and particle matter. Analysing the spatial and temporal distribution of particularly the finer particles helps them evaluate their health impact and establish an early warning system to alert the risk-prone population, in particular children, the elderly and those with predisposed respiratory disease, such as asthma sufferers.

The essential internet power for this data-intensive and time-critical endeavour is provided through NARSS’s connection to the Egyptian National Scientific & Technical Information Network (ENSTINET), Egypt’s scientific NREN.

Read the full story on the In The Field blog.

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