Lost amid all the talk about global warming, water scarcity, pollution and over population, has been the slow but steady rise in dust storms around the globe. Discover magazine reported recently (see references below) that dust storms are not only appearing more frequently all over the world but their severity and size has increased. They note that several headline-inducing storms have blanketed major areas in recent years, including: eastern Colorado; Baghdad, Iraq; Sydney, Australia; and many others, most notably in China. In addition the report goes on to say sand storms that started in Africa have been seen moving all the way across the Atlantic ocean and then covering parts of the Amazon basin; similarly, sand storms in China have reached Hawaii and California.
It is assumed that the rise in dust storms is related to both global warming and human farming and industrial activities that have changed weather patterns, reduced tree cover and changed foliage growth patterns on all continents on Earth.
It is possible the incidence of dust storms could grow worse. With the several year ongoing drought in parts of the American Great Plains, for example, there exists conditions similar to that which brought us the dust bowl of the depression years. This, despite the lessons that were supposedly learned as a result of the years of misery the people in those areas endured. As it stands now, parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, all areas in or around the Hoover dam it might be noted, are all reporting record amounts of dust in the air as the number of dust storms for each state goes up each year. This is also the part of the country that has been depleting the Ogallala aquifer for the better part of the last half century or so and there are few indications that action will be taken to avoid depleting it completely.
And that’s just in this country. It wasn’t long ago that we saw pictures on our televisions of Beijing as it was preparing for the last summer Olympics, literally covered in dust from the Gobi desert. It’s happening all over the planet in surprisingly higher numbers every year, and yet we do nothing to explore it’s causes nor do things that might seek to prevent them from getting worse.
The reason more attention should be given to dust storms is because of their huge potential to cause problems for us. Dust storms cause lung problems in both people and animals, they damage crops and have been known to carry human pollutants along with them. In addition, just the fact that dust storms are starting to show up on our radar is an indication that something is going wrong, something that we probably ought to be giving more attention to in the coming years as all the other environmental problems continue to leapfrog one another in our global consciousness.