A dust storm is a meteorological phenomenon common on the Great Plains of North America, Arabia, in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, the Taklamakan Desert of northwest China, the Sahara Desert of northern Africa, and other arid and semi-arid regions. Severe dust storms can reduce visibility to zero, making travel impossible, and can blow away valuable topsoil, while depositing soil in places where it may not be wanted. Drought and, of course, wind contribute to the emergence of dust storms, as do poor farming and grazing practices. The dust picked up in such a storm can be carried thousands of kilometers: Sahara dust storms influence plankton growth in the western Atlantic Ocean and, according to some scientists, are an important source of scarce minerals for the plants of the Amazon rainforest. Dust storms can often be observed from satellite photos.
Dust storm (1935) in Spearman, Texas.
On other planets
Dust storms are also known to occur on a massive scale on the planet Mars. Storms on Mars last longer, and cover larger areas, than on Earth: some of these storms cover the entire planet and last for hundreds of days.
Last updated: 10-26-2005 01:45:26