Lubbock, Texas dust storm similar to Dust Bowl-era events

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


        1. Please notice that I made no such claim, either. Nor did NOAA. So attempts to distance these dust storms from climate change end up reeking of “doth protest too much.” If you want to argue, save it for an argument.

  1. Well one of the big causes of the dust bowl was poor farming methods on a wide scale. So yes, human caused climate change, although on a regional rather than global basis seems to have played a part in the 30’s.

    1. Congress failed to act on any soil conservation measures until D.C. got dusted in 1933, so I guess it will take a similar event before lawmakers quit posturing.

    2. I watched the documentary “Black Blizzard”. According to this documentary, a big part of the reason for the “Dust Bowl” was the displacement of native, drought-resistant grass with crops. When the drought and winds came, there were no roots to hold the soil in place. I’ve recently read that many Texas ranchers planted Bermuda grass, which isn’t nearly as drought resistant as native grasses. In fact, dead grass was a big part of the reason why some wildfires swept over the Texas Plains. As is often said, those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it.

      1. I’m not sure comparison with the Dust Bowl is really valid until we see houses actually buried under the dust, and holes twenty metres deep where there were once crops. There are some staggering photos from the 1930s of scenes like this.

        reason for the “Dust Bowl” was the displacement of native, drought-resistant grass with crops

        In my previous life as a soil scientist, I was taught that the root cause of the Dust Bowl was the introduction of ploughing, which was tied in with cultivation of (relatively) large areas of a single crop. Native American agriculture used a mixture of crops (e.g. beans/gourds growing around corn) similar to what’s now known as agroforestry. Drought alone isn’t necessarily enough to make soil susceptible to wind erosion, but drought on top of decades of overtilling is.

  2. Meh,  The one we had here in the Phoenix area the other month was bigger — 50 miles wide and 1 mile tall.

    We’ve had a LOT of dust storms (HABOOB!) this summer, which is odd even for us.

  3. Having spent the first 21 years of my life in Lubbock I will say this is nothing new. I have seen some hellacious storms in west Texas and eastern New Mexico. I am not a climate change denier by any stretch of the imagination, but this is just YouTube/Media hyperbole.

    1. I’ve lived in the Arizona area my entire 30 years on earth.  I grew up in the middle of nowhere, where dust storms weren’t uncommon.  But we’ve definitely had an upswing over the last couple of years, this summer especially.

      I haven’t washed my car all summer, because we keep getting dust storms!

      1. Marilove;  

        Thank you for posting this, you beat me to it. Strange that no one seems to know about Arizona dust storms. I started taking many photos of them this year, there were so many. (Mine Below) 

        There are some great “Haboob” videos on Youtube, this one is by far the best. 

        Is it a record breaking year? No one seems to care.  I think we’ve had about 12. 

        There’s a lot of dirt in everything, and a lot of sick people and people who literally were ordered to stay indoors. My eyes have been puffed up and infected since July, I’m almost blind.

        1. Au contraire, we know about Arizona duststorms because of the vehement objection to the use of the inherently terrorist word “haboob” on the part of some of the indigenous population. (A very awkward sentence, the result of trying to dodge the fact that I don’t know the proper term for “resident of Arizona.”)

  4. We will likely see more of these in Texas and Oklahoma this coming year. The drought the region is experience will probably continue through next summer. And this year, the surviving plants kept the topsoil in place… next year, there may not be many surviving plants.

  5. Heck we had a much bigger storm hit Oklahoma City in the 70’s.  It’s only news to people who don’t know the facts.

  6. There’s only one way to stop this: prayer and lower taxes.

    This follows drought, fires, a plague of crickets and lakes turning blood red; that’s some Biblical stuff. Makes me wonder if Gov. Perry’s god is trying to send him a message. 

  7. I live in central Oklahoma, and I’ve been worried about something like this for a long time. Not because of global warming, but because all of the windbreaks that were put in on section lines have been systematically cut down over the last 20 years or so in order to build new homes. The windbreaks were put in to stop farmland from blowing away. You can drive around Oklahoma City and see where the windbreaks have been stripped out so that housing additions can be built.

    The same thing goes further out in the country. All it will take is a long enough drought and the state will start blowing away.

    Anyway, despite my concern, it’s fair to say that a single dust storm isn’t enough to really warrant claims that another dust bowl is imminent.

  8. I don’t remember exactly what year, but in the late 70’s or early 80’s my step-dad and I were out in a field north of Lubbock. It rained like mad. Then completely cleared up.  We then saw a wall like that in the photo above. Except it wasn’t dust that hit us. It was pea size balls of mud. A totally surreal experience.

    1. Heh.  I grew up in Lubbock.  And escaped when I was 16.  A few years later I brought my college girlfriend back home.  We were driving down the street in a rainy/dusty storm.  The sky was red and pink.  

      My girlfriend was freaked out.  Her:  “Is this normal!?!?!”  Me:  “What, a dust storm?”  Her:  “This isn’t dust.  It’s raining mud!!!!!”

  9. I sometimes glance at the US Drought Monitor ( and am amazed at how bad it is in Texas (although it’s recently gotten better.) Seeing how well the “exceptional drought” areas align with the state of Texas makes me wonder, in a perverse sort of way, what the religious extremists who blame natural events on the people most impacted think about the people in Texas right now? That is, why is God so angry at Texas?

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