Largest dust storms in 70 years cover Sydney
A dust storm, described as “the worst in at least 70 years”, sweeps across several Australian states, covering Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney in red dust, Canberra, experienced the dust storm on 22 September, and on 23 September the storm reached Sydney and Brisbane.
On 23 September, the dust plume measured more than 500 kilometres (310 mi) in width and 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) in length and covered dozens of towns and cities in two states.
By 24 September, analysis using MODIS at NASA measured the distance from the northern edge (at Cape York) and southern edge of the plume to be 3,450 km.
Air particle concentration levels reached 15,400 micrograms per cubic metre of air (by comparison, normal days register up to 20 micrograms and bushfires generate 500 micrograms).
This broke the record in many areas. Estimates suggest that during the peak of the storm, the Australian continent was losing 75,000 tonnes of dust per hour off the NSW coast north of Sydney. The dust storm coincided with other extreme weather conditions which affected the cities of Adelaide and Melbourne.
While the cloud was visible from space, the intense colour and drop in temperature drew comparisons with nuclear winter, Armageddon and the planet Mars. The dust storm was described by the Bureau of Meteorology as a “pretty incredible event” that was the worst in the state of New South Wales in nearly 70 years. The phenomenon was reported around the world. The Weather Channel’s Richard Whitaker said: “This is unprecedented. We are seeing earth, wind and fire together”.