Whenever you see a dust cloud, there's an almost instinctual reflex to start talking about The Grapes of Wrath. It's natural. But it's often misplaced. Your average cloud of dirt is less apocalyptic than the dust storms that ripped across the Central Plains of the United States during the 1930s. They can also have different underlying causes.
But the dust storm that hit Lubbock, Texas, earlier this week can legitimately be called Dust Bowl-esque, according to the National Weather Service. That's the Lubbock storm on the right in the image above ... and a 1930s dust storm on the left.
A storm system passing out of the Rockies into the southern plains sent a cold front racing south through the Texas Panhandle and across the South Plains and Rolling Plains late Monday afternoon and evening. Ahead of the front, temperatures were unusually warm, with highs mainly in the upper 80s to lower 90s, and even 96 degrees out at Aspermont. Temperatures dropped quickly behind the front. The high at Amarillo was only 72 degrees. As the front moved south, more and more dirt was lofted by the front until a well-defined "Haboob" (an Arabic term for intense dust storm) developed along the front.
The intense dust storm drew some comparisons to the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. The likeness may not be so farfetched as the region is mired in an exceptional drought, as was the case back in the Dirty Thirties. In fact, 2011 is on pace to shatter the record for the driest year in recorded history for both Lubbock and Childress. In addition, like many of the iconic pictures of rolling dust storms in the 30s, the haboob on the 17th was also caused by a strong cold front.
You are now free to correct anyone who accuses of hyperbole when describing the Lubbock dust storm.
Via Christine Gorman
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.