Combining Satellite Imagery and Social Media to Communicate Sand and Dust Events


  • Ring Len Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Mentor
  • Daniel Tong Aspiring Scientists' Summer Internship Program Co-mentor



Sand and dust storms often have disastrous effects on human health and the economy. From fatal vehicle accidents to Valley Fever infection, the life-threatening nature of these events highlights how crucial it is to properly educate the public on sand and dust storms. But as it stands, communication surrounding these events often lacks either a thorough scientific explanation of how dust storms form or how to respond to them, both of which are crucial to communicating the event and saving lives. This inconsistency led to our aim of combining scientific data and social media to create a holistic method of spreading information about sand and dust storms. To do this, we used AerosolWatch, a satellite imagery website from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to gather different pieces of information such as dust imageries, surface concentration, and duration of storms. We then compiled a table of nineteen major dust events in 2021 and examined them through AersolWatch. With each event, a Twitter post with statements from witnesses were included. Using the information from these sources as well as others, such as government websites and scientific journals, we were able to produce three articles that covered topics such as the transmission of Valley Fever through dust, a major car crash in Utah caused by a dust storm, and El Paso's response to dust storms in 2021.





College of Science: Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic & Earth Sciences