AL ASAD, Iraq -- With summer just around the corner, service members here, those who haven’t served here before, are soon to get a taste of one of the most unique climates in the world.
The Iraqi climate is basically broken down into two seasons, winter and summer,
with short transitional seasons in May and October. However, the different regions of the
country see weather patterns very different from each other.
“The major factor to the weather in the Al Anbar province is a lack of plant life,”
said Gunnery Sgt. John B. Badeaux, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, weather staff
noncommissioned officer-in-charge and native of Lake Charles, La. “The open terrain
here causes even mild winds or high temperatures to cause limitations to visibility and
While eastern and northern portions of Iraq have topography that limit the effects
of blowing dust and sand, the open expanses of the Northern and Al Jazirah Deserts cause
westerly winds to kick up massive clouds of dust and debris as they roll across the desert.
During the month of May and into June, service members here will witness a
phenomenon unique to this part of world, called the ‘Shamal’, a 40-day period when
winds gusting at sustained rates of up to 17-35 mph will blow from the west-northwest
for days at a time.
“The ‘Shamal’ will affect all of western Iraq and most of southern Iraq,” Badeaux
said. “[Service members] can expect plenty of dust and sand storms during this period.”
The ‘Shamal’ comes on the heels of a less documented phenomenon that recently
passed through Al Asad, the ‘Haboob.’ The ‘Haboob,’ which derives from the Arabic
word for wind habb, occurs when downbursts from a thunderstorm sends a wall of dust,
the highest documented at 15,000 feet, careening out at sustained rates of up to 75 mph,
like the shock wave of a high-powered bomb blast.
“We do not know how common the ‘Haboob’ is, because the historical data
wasn’t gathered by Iraqi meteorologists and with the vastness of the desert there may be
no one around to witness them,” said Sgt. David L. Van Bever, weather observer and
native of Paramus, N.J. “The ‘Haboob’ is another example of the unpredictability of the
Iraqi climate. Within a matter of minutes the weather and namely, the visibility, can
Because weather can affect multiple aspects of mission planning, the Marine
Wing Support Squadron 271 weather Marines serving the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
(Forward) work each day to gather weather data, track weather patterns and forecast.
In addition to their crucial role, the Marines are also gathering and archiving
climatological data, something never done under Saddam’s regime.
“Every observation is submitted to a joint-service database that helps forecasters
do their jobs better,” Van Bever said. “Having a full and detailed historical data base
helps us to provide more accurate forecasts.”
One of the things the weather Marines can predict is that over the next few
months it’s going to be hot. After the brief transitional season of May, which could bring
violent thunderstorms and massive dust clouds, the temperatures will continue to rise as
the precipitation falls to an almost undetectable level.
“May is historically the last month with rain until October,” Badeaux said. “There
could be a trace, but it will probably go unnoticed, evaporating before it reaches the
ground. The high temperatures and lack of humidity will keep the formation of clouds at
The historical data shows average high/low temperatures for the month of May at
95 / 69 degrees, the month of June at 105 / 77 degrees, July at 110 / 80 degrees, August,
the hottest month, at 110 / 84 degrees, and September at 100 / 76 degrees. Although the
average of the highs may seem a bit low, temperatures in this region can reach a
scorching 120 degrees, with the temperatures in the open desert passing 125 degrees.
Throughout the summer months, service members in Al Anbar can still expect
dust storms to arise at any time, as low-pressure zones in the Mediterranean and Black
Seas and the Sahara Desert, send weather systems our way.
*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this
story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at defilippisrc@acemnf-