Assessment of the association between dust storms and COVID-19 infection rate in southwest Iran

Parya Broomandi, Byron Crape, Ali Jahanbakhshi, Nasime Janatian, Amirhossein Nikfal, Mahsa Tamjidi, Jong R. Kim, Nick Middleton, Ferhat Karaca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This study assesses a plausible correlation between a dust intrusion episode and a daily increase in COVID-19 cases. A surge in COVID-19 cases was observed a few days after a Middle East Dust (MED) event that peaked on 25th April 2020 in southwest Iran. To investigate potential causal factors for the spike in number of cases, cross-correlations between daily combined aerosol optical depths (AODs) and confirmed cases were computed for Khuzestan, Iran. Additionally, atmospheric stability data time series were assessed by covering before, during, and after dust intrusion, producing four statistically clustered distinct city groups. Groups 1 and 2 had different peak lag times of 10 and 4-5 days, respectively. Since there were statistically significant associations between AOD levels and confirmed cases in both groups, dust incursion may have increased population susceptibility to COVID-19 disease. Group 3 was utilized as a control group with neither a significant level of dust incursion during the episodic period nor any significant associations. Group 4 cities, which experienced high dust incursion levels, showed no significant correlation with confirmed case count increases. Random Forest Analysis assessed the influence of wind speed and AOD, showing relative importance of 0.31 and 0.23 on the daily increase percent of confirmed cases, respectively. This study may serve as a reference for better understanding and predicting factors affecting COVID-19 transmission and diffusion routes, focusing on the role of MED intrusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36392-36411
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • AOD
  • Atmospheric air pollution
  • Atmospheric stability class
  • Khuzestan
  • MED intrusion
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessment of the association between dust storms and COVID-19 infection rate in southwest Iran'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this