Caught Up in Dust and Sandstorms
Blanket dust and sandstorms inspire awe and disquiet like few other meteorological phenomena. While typical for semi-arid and desert environments, many climate change scientists foresee a vast increase not just in the number of dust and sandstorms in obvious places like the Sahara and Arabian Peninsula, but indeed, a new outcrop of storm targets.
U.S. Army soldiers take cover from a sandstorm in Iraq – Photo credit
The truth is that while some of us connect the rise in the planet’s temperatures with events like the disappearance of polar ice caps, floods and precarious sea levels, another dangerous spin-off is more and worse dust storms in otherwise immune places.
Early sandstorm traces on the way to LÃ¼deritz, Namibia – Photo credit
The desertification of vast new swaths of land across the globe has already wrought disastrous effects. Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, receives millions of tons of sand from the Gobi desert every spring.
Desert dunes stir in Namibia – Photo credit
In turn, clouds of dust from China swoop over the Pacific Coast of the United States. Dust and sandstorms form relatively easily in proper conditions and just like that, can blot out the sun, cover a city and gust across oceans, to other continents.
Sandstorm over Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia- Photo credit
The photograph above demonstrates how a sandstorm can cripple a major world capital like Riyadh. The city of 7 million people is the commercial and political heart of Saudi Arabia, but the sand comes of course, nonetheless.
Jet soars through a dust storm in Utah, U.S.A. – Photo credit
The United States of America, home to the Dust Bowl of The Grapes of Wrath, is not immune to sudden, immense dust storms. In the face of mass monoculture, once fertile land has undergone decades of degradation. The phrase “reap what you sow” has a sad irony now when you consider the negative consequences of a cold industrial approach to agriculture.
Dust storm threatens 2007 Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada – Photo credit
The potential for a dust storm to originate from once usable, arable land, on a perpetual basis, is now a major threat. While states like Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico have had storms before, global climate experts worry that current conditions may exacerbate dust squalls in new states.
Burning Man dust storm – Photo credit
For a country like Nepal, which wavers between severe monsoons in one season and often, famine and drought in another, dust storms can be a stiff price to pay.
Dust storm in Nepal – Photo credit
The world class city of Sydney was a murky haze of red dust one day in late September 2009, as a mammoth particle cloud fell on the New South Wales capital.
Dust storm covers the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia – Photo credit
The Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, parks and hotels in Sydney – indeed, a generous portion of Australia – came under fire.
Dust storm in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia – Photo credit
Fire is one consequence of climate change Australia has had to grapple with lately, worse than ever in fact, in the form of forest and brush fires. Even Brisbane however, contends with the odd dust storm now and then.
Dust storm off the coast of Oman – Photo credit
This NASA satellite image of a dust storm off the coast of Oman demonstrates what an abject monstrosity it can be. It simply takes over and moves with the winds.
Dust storm approaches Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, border of Utah and Arizona, U.S.A. – Photo credit
So while eerily beautiful with a capable photographer behind the lens, dust and sandstorms are a real menace from time to time. Those of us fortunate enough to live in areas free from both have our own weather nuisances to contend with of course. But again, if climate change experts are correct, more of us may feel the brunt of a dust storm in the foreseeable future.
Dust storm in Ouagadougou, Burkina Fasso – Photo credit