LUBBOCK, Texas (KXAN) — A line of strong storms kicked up an enormous amount of dust in eastern New Mexico and West Texas Monday afternoon. So much so, it could be seen from satellite.
A Dust Storm Warning was issued for Lubbock and the surrounding counties Monday evening due to damaging wind gusts in excess of 60+ mph and near-zero visibility due to blowing dust.
The thick dust created an orange hue over parts of the South Plains as the lofted particles blocked sunshine in the late afternoon.
Science behind dust storms
Dust storms are often caused by strong boundaries (ex. cold front) or intense thunderstorms. They more frequently occur in deserts and areas with dry soil, as loosely bound particles are lofted into the air and remain suspended due to high winds.
Dust closer to the surface can greatly impede visibility and reduce air quality, making it difficult for those with respiratory illnesses. It also can be detrimental to appliances, like that of your vehicle’s ventilation system.
Dust higher up in the atmosphere can cause vibrant sunrises and sunsets as light is reflected off the particles. It can also act as condensation nuclei (or a “starter molecules”) for precipitation to form.
The south/southwest United States is where most dust storms occur, specifically Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Oklahoma and Colorado. Large dust storms are a common occurrence during monsoon season in the Desert Southwest.
Dust storm vs. Sandstorm vs. Haboob
Although similar in appearance and effects, there are differences between dust storms, sandstorms and haboobs.
The particles in a dust storm are smaller in size than particles in a sandstorm and can be launched higher and farther. A haboob is known to be larger in scale and duration, characterized by thick dust and can stretch up to 5,000 feet into the atmosphere.
All three can produce issues in transportation (visibility), human health and air quality.