Cover your face! Dust storms more likely in a warmer world
One of the characters in my latest book,“Albedo Effect, Book 2 of The Shade Ring Trilogy,” is an overheated Mother Nature. The trilogy is set a hundred years in the future against a backdrop of runaway global warming. So I’ve taken a keen interest in scientific predictions of what a hotter world might mean. Among them: more haboobs. (Not talking body parts here.)
Haboob is from the Arabic, referring to huge sand storms blowing in from the desert. But scientists say if the Earth keeps warming, we’ll see more giant sand storms and dust storms much closer to home. Like the leviathan that swallowed Phoenix in 2011. (See the "Arizona Republic" article here.) There have been monster dust storms and sand storms in recent years in the American southwest, China, Eastern Europe, Australia, and, of course, Africa.
In the second book of “The Shade Ring Trilogy,” a monster dust storm plays a pivotal role in the story. It’s the kind of storm that plagued Texas, Oklahoma and other states during The Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The kind of dust storm that can be fatal.
And, as I was doing my research, I ran across some alarming developments occurring right now that may have extremely negative impacts in the not-too-distant future. We’re draining our aquifers – those underground water reservoirs that we’ve been pumping water from for decades – for drinking and to support agriculture. Once they’re drained, they’ll take thousands of years to replenish. And when an aquifer is sucked dry, the land above it sinks and dries out, thus contributing to more dust storms. Part of California’s San Joaquin Valley has sunk more than 28 feet. Beijing is sinking an average of four inches a year. You’ll be hearing more about our dwindling water supplies in the coming decades, along with more haboobs.
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The picture above was taken in Spearman, Texas, April 14, 1935.