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Apocalyptic dust storms

Dust storm, ChinaClick for larger images

Let no one be in any doubt, the end of the world is approaching. The only question is whether it will occur as soon as 21st December this year, or much, much, much later. Whenever it happens, all reasonable soothsayers would agree that, besides fire tornadoes, it will probably involve some apocalyptic dust storms similar to the one above. These amazing photographs of an entire sand storm were captured at a Chinese military outpost in the Gobi desert, in May 2010.

Dust storm, Golmud, China

Dust storms like this can be cross-continental events, eating up everything in their path for hundreds of miles. If they make it into the upper atmosphere, they have been known to travel to the other side of the world, carrying with them all manner of viruses and respiratory ailments.

One place you really don’t want to get caught in one is the Sahara desert. Around 524 BC, a sand storm there buried the entire 50,000-strong army of Persian ruler Cambryses II. Here is a satellite view of one such massive sand storm over the Sahara in 2010:

Dust storm, Sahara

It isn’t only in the desert that dust storms occur though. The infamous ‘Dust Bowl‘ disasters of the American prairies in the 1930s, caused by intensive farming and drought, saw giant ‘black blizzards’ of top soil blown off 100 million acres of land, deposited as far away as New York and Washington. It left 500,000 Americans homeless, a tragedy immortalised in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Dust Bowl

These days dust storms still roll through that land, but we in the rest of the world can now experience it from the comfort of YouTube. Here are two timelapse clips of a massive storm that consumed Phoenix, Arizona, in 2011 (they are sometimes known as ‘haboobs‘):

So we’re starting to get a picture of what the apocalypse might look like as it approaches. But what will it be like when you’re actually in there? The couple in this video know — they drove straight into a monumental dust storm at Broken Hill, Australia:

Basically, dust storms are scary as hell. Nonetheless, when these clouds of red dust occasionally reach Sydney, they can also create some pretty nice post-apocalyptic images:

Dust storm, Sydney

Pics via Daily Mail, Kansas State University and the Guardian
Thanks to Sean Tomes for the suggestion!

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