2009 Australian dust storm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
2009 Australian dust storm
Dust storm over eastern Australia - MODIS Terra 250m - 23 Sept 2009.jpg
MODIS Terra satellite image of the dust storm over eastern Australia taken on 23 September 2009
Formed 22 September 2009
Dissipated 24 September 2009
Damage none
Fatalities none
Areas affected  Australia

In 2009, a dust storm swept across the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland from 22 to 24 September. The capital, Canberra, experienced the dust storm on 22 September,[1][2] 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.[3] By 24 September, analysis using MODIS at NASA measured the distance from the northern edge at Cape York to the southern edge of the plume to be 3,450 km.[4]

Air particle concentration levels reached 15,400 micrograms per cubic metre of air. Normal days register up to 20 micrograms and bushfires generate 500 micrograms. This concentration of dust broke records in many towns and cities.[5] The CSIRO estimated that the storm carried some 16 million tonnes of dust from the deserts of Central Australia,[6] and during the peak of the storm, the Australian continent was estimated to be losing 75,000 tonnes of dust per hour off the NSW coast north of Sydney.[7] The dust storm coincided with other extreme weather conditions which affected the cities of Adelaide and Melbourne.

While the cloud was visible from space, on the ground the intense red-orange colour and drop in temperature drew comparisons with nuclear winter, Armageddon, and the planet Mars.[8][9][10] 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.[8][9][11][12] 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".[13]

Some of the thousands of tons of dirt and soil lifted in the dust storm were dumped in Sydney Harbour and the Tasman Sea. This increased the nitrogen and phosphate levels in the water significantly. Measurements taken two weeks after the event indicated an explosion of microscopic plant life which can be expected lead to an increase in fish numbers. Some researchers suggest that feeding the poor and also reducing the greenhouse effect could be achieved in a similar manner with deliberate ocean fertilisation.[14][clarification needed]

Cause[edit]

Map of Australia and New Zealand showing the progress of the dust affected area and dust plume at various intervals

The dust is believed to have originated from far-western New South Wales and north-east South Australia. This includes an area known as the 'Corner Country',[15] a dry, remote area of far-western New South Wales. In South Australia the dust may also have come from Lake Eyre Basin or the Woomera area, the latter raising concerns that it was radioactive and dangerous since the area contains the Olympic Dam uranium mine.[5]

According to the New South Wales regional director of the Bureau of Meteorology, Barry Hanstrum, the cause was an "intense north low-pressure area" which "picked up a lot of dust from the very dry interior of the continent".[16] Senior forecaster Ewan Mitchel said winds from a cold front picked up dust from north-east South Australia on 22 September.[17] That night the winds strengthened to 100 km per hour and collected more dust from areas in New South Wales that were drought affected.[17]

New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory[edit]

The first city to be affected was Broken Hill, which was 'blacked out' at about 3:30 pm on 22 September 2009. At least one mine was shut down.[13] It was also witnessed in Cowra. The storm blew across Canberra and the surrounding region by midday on 22 September 2009, before being washed away by overnight rain, the heaviest rainfall over Canberra in months.[2]

It was reported that the dust set off smoke alarms across the state and prompted increased demand for emergency services. Asthma sufferers were hospitalised.[8] Rain was also reported to have resulted,[16] with cricket ball-sized hailstones falling.[9]

The dust storm also reached the north coast of NSW on the morning of 23 September 2009. Coffs Harbour was affected by 7 am. At Coffs Harbour Airport visibility was down to 500 metres by 9 am and the airport remained closed until 10:30am. Grafton and the Clarence Valley were affected by 8:30 am.[15][18] It caused flight delays at Ballina airport and flight cancellations for most of the day at Lismore airport with visibility at 700 metres. A local school rugby union carnival was also called off.[17]

Sydney[edit]

Suburban Sydney, 6:20 am, 23 September. At dawn with the sun low in the sky, the colour was a deep orange/brown. By 8:00 am the colour was a less intense gold/brown hue.

The storm caused severe disruption to international flights—several early morning Air New Zealand flights from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington had to return to New Zealand after finding themselves unable to land at Sydney Airport.[19] These flights were listed as cancelled and many others were rescheduled until later.[20] 18 international flights were diverted to Melbourne Airport or Brisbane Airport, while six others were cancelled altogether.[8][11] There were delays of six hours reported for overseas flights, whilst domestic flights experienced disruption of as much as three hours.[8] Roads were disrupted, including the main tunnel of the M5 East Motorway which was shut down. Building sites were closed.[9] Ferry services were cancelled.[21] Canterbury Park Racecourse's scheduled day of horse racing was abandoned.[22]

Schools were disrupted as those children who attended were distracted by the dust storm, while many parents kept their children home. School trips and sports activities were cancelled for the day, and children were directed to stay inside during breaks in some schools.[23] Face masks experienced surging sales in Sydney as concerned residents rushed to protect themselves against the dust, with at least one retailer indicating she had sold more than during the swine flu pandemic.[24]

Queensland[edit]

Dust storm at Surfers Paradise, Queensland beach (looking south)

Residents of Windorah in South West Queensland reported low visibility on the morning of 22 September.[25] By 23 September visibility in Toowoomba and Ipswich in South East Queensland was reduced to 100 metres (330 ft).[26]

Brisbane was affected by the dust storm, although low visibility was less of a problem at Brisbane Airport than it was at Sydney.[27]

The Gold Coast was also affected by the dust storm by 11.30 am, reducing visibility to 500 metres (1,600 ft). Work stopped at construction sites due to health concerns, powerlines were down in some areas, the Q-deck was closed and traffic was slow with motorists using headlights. False fire alarms resulted in the evacuation of the Southport Magistrates Court. Flights were able to depart but incoming flights were diverted.[28] The beaches remained open with added 'no swimming' flags in unpatrolled areas. Two fishermen off the coast of South Stradbroke Island were lost and a helicopter was required to locate them.[29][30]

The dust storm reached Central and North Queensland by the evening of 23 September 2009. However the effect was less serious, with visibility between 4,000 and 7,000 metres. Commercial flights were not disrupted. Affected areas include Townsville, Blackwater, Rockhampton,[31] Mackay,[32] Cairns and the Gulf of Carpentaria (Normanton and Kowanyama).[33]

New Zealand[edit]

Red dust from the storm reached New Zealand on the morning of 25 September 2009, behind a weather front that brought cold temperatures to the North Island. It was observed by satellite, atmospheric monitoring equipment (a beta attenuation monitor) at Auckland International Airport and by dust settling on the ground. Dust settled across Auckland as well as in the Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki districts of the North Island and it also reached the South Islands West Coast.[34][35][36][37]

Second dust storm[edit]

A second dust storm, originating in the same area but believed to be smaller, reached Broken Hill and Cobar by 10 pm on 25 September 2009.[38] This storm arrived in Sydney between 4 and 5 am on 26 September 2009, it pushed the EPA Air Quality Index into the 'Poor to Hazardous' range.[39] However this was not as intense and had cleared by mid morning. The storm reached Brisbane on the evening of 26 September 2009, with the haze expected to clear by 28 September 2009.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Penny McLintock (22 September 2009). "Canberra disappears in the dust". ABC News. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Megan Doherty (23 September 2009). "Dust, hail and deluge". The Canberra Times. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  3. ^ Largest dust storms in 70 years cover Sydney The Daily Telegraph
  4. ^ "Dust over Eastern Australia". NASA – Earth Observatory. 25 September 2009. Archived from the original on 30 October 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Roberts, Greg (25 September 2009). "Are the dust storms radioactive?". news.com.au (News Limited). Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  6. ^ "16 megaton D-bomb". The Gold Coast Bulletin (News Limited). 24 September 2009. pp. 1 to 5. Archived from the original on 13 September 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2009. 
  7. ^ Leys, J., Heidenreich, S. and Case, M. 2009. DustWatch interim report 22–23 September. DustWatch is funded by the Lower Murray Darling, Lachlan, and Murray CMAs, the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW and Griffith University.
  8. ^ a b c d e Nichola Saminather and Ed Johnson (23 September 2009). "Sydney Hit by 'Nuclear Winter' as Dust Storm Envelops City". Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d Toni O'Loughlin (23 September 2009). "Australia engulfed by dust storms". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  10. ^ Ian Woods (23 September 2009). "Giant Dust Storm Causes Havoc in Sydney". Sky News. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  11. ^ a b "Melbourne Airport warns of delays". ABC News. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  12. ^ "Sydney dust storm worst in 70 years, says weather bureau". The Australian. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  13. ^ a b "Severe dust storm sweeps Australia". RTÉ. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  14. ^ Dani Cooper (7 October 2009). "Australian Dust Storms Feed Life Explosion". ABC Science Online. Discovery Communications, LLC. Archived from the original on 10 October 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2009. 
  15. ^ a b "Welcome to Coughs Harbour". The Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Queensland: APN News & Media Ltd). 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  16. ^ a b Madelene Pearson (23 September 2009). "Australian Weather Event Brings Rain to New South Wales Crops". Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c "North Coast chokes in dust". The Northern Star (Lismore, Queensland: APN News & Media Ltd). 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  18. ^ "Dust storm hits Northern NSW". ABC Online. 23 September 2009. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  19. ^ "Air NZ flights turn back as Sydney morphs into Mars". National Business Review. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  20. ^ Michael Janda (23 September 2009). "Flight delays remain as dust settles in Sydney". ABC News. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  21. ^ "Red dust cloud covers Sydney". BBC. 23 September 2009. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  22. ^ Nichola Saminather and Rebecca Keenan (23 September 2009). "Giant dust storm blankets Sydney". Irish Independent. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  23. ^ Inga Ting (23 September 2009). "Red dust storm: half-empty classrooms and missed excursions". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  24. ^ Inga Ting (23 September 2009). "Red dust: face masks flying off the shelves". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  25. ^ Brian Williams, Peter Morley and Leanne Edmistone (24 September 2009). "Dust storm, worst in 70 years, expected to head north". Courier Mail (Queensland Newspapers). Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  26. ^ Arjun Ramachandran (23 September 2009). "Brisbane CBD dusted: Sydney storm heads north". theage.com.au (Melbourne: Fairfax Digital). Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  27. ^ Conal Hanna (23 September 2009). "Brisbane awakes from haze as dust settles". Brisbane Times. Archived from the original on 30 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  28. ^ "Dust descends on Gold Coast". Gold Coast Bulletin. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  29. ^ "Sydney breathes again as dust covers Brisbane". ABC News. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  30. ^ "Dust storm engulfs southern Qld". Yahoo7. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  31. ^ "Storm arrives dust in time for tea". The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland: APN News & Media). 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  32. ^ "Fire fear follows in dust's wake". Daily Mercury (Mackay, Queensland: APN News & Media). 25 September 2009. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  33. ^ "Dust clouds Cairns". The Cairns Post (Cairns, Queensland: News Limited). 24 September 2009. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  34. ^ "Storm's red dust reaches NZ". The New Zealand Herald (New Zealand: APN Holdings NZ Limited). 25 September 2009. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  35. ^ "Desert storm hits Taranaki". Taranaki Daily News (Taranaki, New Zealand: Fairfax). 25 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  36. ^ "Australian dust storm arrives in New Zealand". news.com.au (Wellington, New Zealand: News Limited). 25 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  37. ^ "Aussie Outback dust smothers the Coast". Greymouth Star. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  38. ^ "Dust storm heading towards Sydney". news.com.au (Australia: News Limited). 26 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  39. ^ NSW DECC (26 September 2009). "Hourly Air quality index". Air quality update. New South Wales Government – Department of Environment Climate Change and Water. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  40. ^ "Second dust storm sweeps through Qld". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 2009. Archived from the original on 29 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 

External links[edit]

Media related to 2009 Australian dust storm at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 35°18′25″S 149°07′26″E / 35.307°S 149.124°E / -35.307; 149.124 (Canberra)