Record Dust Storm Swallos Up an American City
Meteorologists were still trying to get exact measures from satellite and radar to figure out how big the dust storm was and compare it with previous ones, but they estimate it was more than a mile high and more than 100 miles wide. “People who’ve lived here their whole lives, 30 or 40 years, are saying they’ve never seen a storm this large”
During the storm, the amount of particulate matter in the air reached 375 micrograms per cubic meter, more than double the level federal standards consider healthy. “You didn’t have to go far anywhere in the dust storm to feel the remnants of that dust in your throat and in your nose,” Ward said. “If someone already has breathing problems like asthma and bronchitis, this is an incredible health challenge and serious health threat for those folks.”
Tonight, on NBC (video here), Brian Williams called it “The Dust Storm that Swallowed Up an American City.”
Back in April, the USGS released a report on Dust-Bowlification that concluded drier conditions were projected to accelerate dust storms in the U.S. Southwest. In large parts of Texas and Oklahoma now, the drought is more intense than it was during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
In 2007, Science (subs. req’d) published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas to California. Last year, a comprehensive literature review, “Drought under global warming: a review,” by NCAR found that we risk multiple, devastating global droughts worse than the Dust Bowl even on moderate emissions path. Another study found the U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought this century.
So the monster dust storm — a haboob — that hit Phoenix is just the shape of things to come for the entire Southwest.
Physical and environmental impacts
A sandstorm can move whole sand dunes. Dust storms can carry large amounts of dust, so much so that the leading edge of one can appear as a solid wall of dust as much as 1.6 km (1 mile) high. Dust and sand storms which come off the Sahara Desert are locally known as a simoom or simoon (sîmūm, sîmūn). The haboob (həbūb) is a sandstorm prevalent in the region of Sudan around Khartoum; storms are very common around Khartoum every summer. When it happens you can’t see anything but a wall of sand covering your view.
Saharan dust storms have increased approximately 10-fold during the half-century since the 1950s, causing topsoil loss in Niger, Chad, northern Nigeria, and Burkina Faso. In Mauritania there were just two dust storms a year in the early 1960s, but there are about 80 a year today, according to Andrew Goudie, a professor of geography at Oxford University. Levels of Saharan dust coming off the east coast of Africa in June (2007) were five times those observed in June 2006, and were the highest observed since at least 1999, which may cool Atlantic waters enough to slightly reduce hurricane activity in late 2007.
Dust storms have also been shown to increase the spread of disease across the globe. Virus spores in the ground are blown into the atmosphere by the storms with the minute particles then acting like urban smog or acid rain.
Prolonged and unprotected exposure of the respiratory system in a dust storm can also cause Silicosis which, if left untreated, will lead to Asphyxiation. There is also the danger of Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Dry Eyes) which, in severe cases without immediate and proper treatment, can lead to blindness
- 2011: A major dust storm swept through the southern portion of the Desert Southwest U.S. State of Arizona on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. The dust storm was triggered from thunderstorms to the south of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Dust from the deserts were blown up by high winds. The winds were estimated to be over 60 miles per hour and caused low visibility. The storm went through the city of Phoenix a little after 7:00 p.m. local time. The event was captured and filmed by local media and was seen live on national television channels such as The Weather Channel. Local flights in the area were delayed because of the storm. Power outages were also reported.
Something future generations can thank us for again and again for a long, long, long time: NOAA: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe. Source Climate Progress