Assessing risks to infrastructure projects in the Middle East from drifting/blowing sand using WRF

Wayne Boulton
RWDI, Inc.
2 pm November 5 in Room 2554

Significant planning and engineering efforts are underway to develop an integrated, multi-national rail network across the Arabian Peninsula. Passenger lines, some designed to support speeds in excess of 200 kilometres per hour, and mineral / bulk material lines are under development. Many of the planned routes cross long stretches of open desert, including sections of the Rub' al Khali or ‘Empty Quarter’ where sand dunes reach heights in excess of 200 metres. Wind-blown and drifting sand poses a significant threat to the integrity of a number of aspects of rail systems. However, meteorological stations in these remote desert areas are essentially non-existent, representing a significant challenge to railway engineers. To fill this gap, the authors leveraged the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model to simulate the meteorology over nested model domains down to four kilometre resolution over the Arabian Peninsula for a contiguous ten-year period from 2001 through 2010. WRF model outputs were post-processed using Weibull fitting techniques to develop site-specific climate models for numerous locations along proposed sections of track in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These climate models were then integrated with results from wind tunnel studies of sand transport, which in turn were used to develop climate sensitive mitigation strategies. In addition to the development of representative sand transport statistics, one-of-a-kind maps depicting near-surface wind fields, annual sand transport rates, and vector plots of sand transport pathways were also developed.