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Weather haze forces flight cancellations

By Kenneth Ehigiator & Ebele Orakpo

LAGOS—THE Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, Monday, said the current inclement weather conditions in the past few days was caused by significant build up of surface pressure systems over the Sahara Desert and the Sahel regions.

The agency’s explanation came against the backdrop of worsening weather conditions which led to cancellations of flights to the northern part of the country, Benin and Owerri.

NIMET said in a statement in Abuja: “There has been a significant build up of surface pressure systems over the Sahara Desert and the Sahel regions in the past few days. This has resulted in the lifting of considerable quantity of dust particles into the atmosphere in those regions.

“The raised dust particles are being transported southwards and have caused significant reduction in horizontal visibility over the extreme northeastern part of the country. Places around Maiduguri, Potiskum, Nguru and Kano are presently experiencing severe harmattan dust haze with the associated reduction in horizontal visibility to less than 800m.”

NIMET added that as a result, “flight operations in some airports in the affected states have been disrupted,” adding that it was “closely monitoring and keeping track of the current episode of the transportation of dust particles from the source regions into the country and the likely effects of the dust haze phenomenon in the country.”

Vanguard gathered that the weather minima set for most airports in the North is now less than 1000m and at 800m, airlines and their pilots want to avoid the hammer of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, which sets a fine of N50,000 for erring pilots and N500,000 for the airlines.

On the weather condition in the South, NIMET said: “Further southward transport of the dust particles already in the country will be slow due to the prevailing light winds. The dust particles are, therefore, expected to stagnate over the affected areas while they slowly spread westwards and southwards to places such as Yola, Gombe, Bauchi, Jos, Kaduna and Sokoto within the next twenty four hours and horizontal visibility in these areas will be reduced to less than 1000m.”

Also speaking with Vanguard in Lagos, the Director, Research and Training, of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, Mrs. Modupe Ogunwale said the dust affected the north-eastern part and was now moving towards the south.

She said: “Before now, the Inter Tropical Discontinuity, ITD, which is the meeting point between the dry air from the north and the moist air from the south has moved all the way over Kano so all these spaces had a lot of moisture so when these particles of dust came, they condensed the humid air and rain fell. Immediately after the rain, the dust settled.

“In Abuja, they had rain last  Wednesday/Thursday and it was after the rain that the dust came. The same thing happened in Lagos, rain fell on Friday night and the dust came in on Saturday. That is usually what happens.

“Those particles of dust act as condensation nuclei for the moist air so that it falls like rain. If somebody had collected the rain water, you would notice that it would be very dirty and that kind of water would only be okay for agriculture.”

The NIMET boss said that “another dust was raised on Sunday and it has already affected Maiduguri and Yola with the two cities having less than 300 metres visibility, it is very bad.”

She added that the south should be expecting some more dust in the next few days as the dust would soon come down south.
Mrs. Ogunwale said that when the dusty days are over, the ITD may start moving up again. Meanwhile, NIMET’s statement indicates that other cites, such as Abuja, Makurdi, Minna and Ilorin in the north central region will experience a slight increase in the concentration of dust particles but with a mild effect on horizontal visibility.

Slight reduction in humidity

It added that “the southern part of the country will only experience a slight reduction in humidity due to the southward extension of the influence of the current dust haze.”

The situation in Lagos worsened yesterday, as most flights to the north were cancelled by airlines, with many passengers stranded.

Most passengers who were desperate to travel to the north by air took Abuja flights, as the weather situation in the federal capital improved as the day went by.

At the new terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, MMA2, where most passengers were stranded, airlines cancelled their flights to Kano and other northern cities, while Dana Airlines’ officials were seen refunding money to passengers for its inability to operate its Kano flight due  to the harmattan haze.

Several airlines also cancelled flights to Owerri and Benin because of worsening weather conditions in those cities, but flights to Port Harcourt and Warri were operated by some of the airlines.


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