Atmosphere And Weather
Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas. Dust bowl surveying in Texas

Interesting facts about sandstorms

Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas. Dust bowl surveying in Texas
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"Interesting facts about sandstorms"
Caption: Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas. Dust bowl surveying in Texas
Location: Stratford, Texas
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Storms come in many shapes, including thunderstorms and snowstorms, and then one of a different type is the sandstorm.

Sandstorms are made up of wind and either sand, dirt or dust. The particulates that are found in this type of storm originate in an arid area. Deserts are one of the first places that are thought of as locations of origin for sandstorms; however, they can occur in any place that does not receive a significant amount of rain, resulting in a drought.

The wind from a sandstorm lifts the topsoil off an area. If this is a farming area, this soil is needed for crops to grow. In these areas, they often occur in the summer. Generally, sandstorms are caused by a front that moves through an arid area. In Persia, Cambyses II, a Persian ruler, took his army of over 50,000 to Suia Oasis in the Western Desert. On the way, his army was buried by a sandstorm. In the year 2000, a team from Egypt's Helwan University found artifacts believed to be from this army.

In the 1930s, there was a severe drought that struck the United States' Southwest and central plains. Between the drought and the farming practice of stripping off the deep-rooted grasses before tilling the land, the land was left with loose soil. When the drought hit, this led to the Dust Bowl, a time when several sandstorms riddled the area of the drought. Hundred of thousands of people were displaced during this time.

Australia was hit by a severe dust storm in 2009. This happened after years of drought. The storm began in the center of the country and traveled east. Its path was through the large cities on the east coast. At times the storm stretched 2,700 miles across, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. The dust from the storm traveled as far as New Zealand. When it reached this destination, there was worry that the dust may have carried radioactive sediment from an Australian uranium mine that the storm traveled over. Tests that were run were inconclusive.

Sandstorms can carry particles which are unhealthy for humans and animals to breathe. Any fungi, or heavy metals from pollutants, chemicals or bacteria that are in the path of the storm can be picked up easily. During the Dust Bowl in 1935, dust storms were thought to be the cause of a measles epidemic, a record number of strep throats and a severe increase in infant mortality. In northern Africa, dust storms were blamed for an outbreak of meningitis, and in the southwestern area of the United States it is believed to have carried fungal spores which led to valley fever.

In addition, in Aug. 2011 a member of the United States Navy, Captain Mark Lyles, of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, reported to the Huffington Post that samples from Kuwait and Iraq showed enough aluminum, heavy metals and viruses to lead to some of the illnesses seen in returning soldiers from those areas. These particles were transported to these soldiers via sandstorms.

Even though sandstorms appear to be awesome and a bother, they are more than that. As recorded throughout history, they can be deadly.

More about this author: Kimberly Napier

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