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Report: Oil Prices Rise Due to Iraqi Sandstorms

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If you’re noticing an extra pinch at the gas pump, you might be able to blame Mother Nature.

According to Goldman Sachs, sandstorms in the Middle East have cut oil production, specifically in the country of Iraq. A series of sandstorms hit the region in mid-to-late February, severely cutting visibilities and hampering oil production as a result, thus reducing supply and partially resulting in the spike in oil prices.

Strong northwesterly winds known in the Middle East as a “shamal” can occur several times a year, but they’re most common in winter months, and it’s this type of storm that’s likely at the heart of the oil production drop in the Middle East. Shamal winds tend to be strongest in the winter, and unlike haboobs and sand storms in the United States, shamals can last for days – just as they did last month across the eastern Arabian Peninsula. A shamal in the middle of February, partially caused by a low in the eastern Mediterranean which forced cool, gale-force winds to sweep through the middle of Iraq, led to visibility in the Qatari capital of Doha being reduced to less than a mile due to the haze from the storm. A reporting station 23 miles southwest of Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, reported visibilities of less than a quarter mile with the same sandstorm.

Shamals also bring in significantly cooler weather – residents along the normally scorching eastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula saw temperatures plummet down to the mid-70s for highs – far below the desert-like highs in the 90s typical of this part of the world.

According to the Iraqi Meteorological Organization, winds from a strong low in the eastern Mediterranean could lead to more strong winds and sand storms in southern Iraq – and perhaps another temporary cut in oil production and supply – this week.

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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