Sandstorms can rapidly change the appearance of an area with the shifting and re-forming of dunes by the wind. Dust storms in arid regions can be formed when small, light dust particles are blown in to the air, often lifted by the strong winds at the leading edge of a cold front. In some drought prone areas, a 'dustbowl' effect can be caused by prolonged drought over a long period because of persistent failure of the rains, and often exacerbated by overgrazing.
One of the things about dust storms that worries people today is the effects that they can have on their every day lives. Even though dust storms may not be prevalent in your area, or my own for that matter, they are a very real problem for the people who live in areas that are commonly affected by these storms. Dust storms can have a devastating effect on agriculture, both crops and livestock, commerce, the health and general well being of the people in the effected area, and even on mother nature herself.
One of the most hazardous effects of a dust storm is the reduction in visibility. Dust storms commonly reduce the visibility to less than a quarter of a mile, however in some cases, it can be much less.
Agricultural processes can also be effected by dust storms. Crop damage is a common problem, but also the erosion that takes place is another concern. With the blowing away of precious top soil, eventually an area can become barren and then it could even become a desert. Of course, there are measures that can be taken to ensure that this doesn't happen. A wind erosion control system has to be set up through by changing cropping and management practices. For this system to be effective, it would have to result in larger soil aggregates that are harder for the wind to pick up, which are created through different field working techniques and crop rotations. Ridging of a field would also prevent wind erosion by holding dust particles to the ground. This can also be accomplished with field working techniques. Narrow fields, wind strip cropping, and wind breaks as near as perpendicular to the direction of the wind during critical erosion periods is another effective way of curbing the effects of wind erosion. And, lastly, large amounts of residue on the surface, standing if possible, would help prevent erosion during critical periods.
Urban communities are not immune to the harmful effects of dust storms either. Every day busy transactions can be effected in a negative way when a dust storm hits. One thing that is a concern when a dust storm hits a town or city is power outages and infrastructure damage. Anyone of these two things could have a negative result for a business. Also, there could be extensive damage to computers and communications equipment from the buildup of dust. The dust particles can get into buildings and businesses and work their way inside computers and telecommunications equipment, ruining the delicate technologies on the inside. Again, with many businesses today being dependent on technologies such as computers and communications equipment, this could have a negative impact on commerce.
The health of people can also be affected by dust storms. The dust particles in the air can lead to a number of respiratory problems, asthma especially. Also, viruses and microbes carried in the dust particles of dust storms over seas can cause disease in humans as well as respiratory problems. In North and Central America, these dust storms pose a health risk mainly for those living in Florida and the Caribbean.
While many of the effects of dust storms have a negative impact, it is interesting to note that some of the nutrients brought over by African dust storms can actually benefit such areas as the rain forest. However, Dust storms do have some sort of effect in almost every aspect of our daily lives, whether you are a farmer, or a business man. Dust storms will always be there and that is why it is important to be informed of the effects, both harmful and positive, of these storms.