A dust storm is defined as “a very strong wind that carries clouds of dust over large areas." Devastating storms like the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s render most affected land uninhabitable. Effected humans improvised ways to filter out dirt when breathing, and covered doorways and windows with damp sheets to reduce dirt that got through the nook and crannies of the house.
Dust storms occur mainly in very dry and dehydrated environments. The heavy winds that sweep through these areas pick up and spread large quantities of dust and sand from the top layers of soil. According to the Gale reference center, "40% of the world's land surface is arid, either already desert land or in the process of desertification." The areas undergoing deforestation are very prone to dust storms because of the low water content and the soil being overturned. Human activity and misuse of the land contributes to the dehydration of the land. During a storm the dust in the air can create major health hazards when the particles are inhaled.
The Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl is the name given to a series of storms along the Great Plains of the United States during the 1930s. The Great Plains has a history of being prone to dust storms, but long drought conditions resulted in particularly brutal storms. Farm lands were left exposed to windy weather. As a result, the dirt was picked up, swept up into large walls of dust, and spread over the plains. In addition, the poor air pollution caused animals to suffocate, which both eliminated food stocks and economic production.
The Dust Bowl occurred due to a variety of factors, but improper land cultivation methods are primarily to blame. The extensive drought period affected the top soil and the plants that the crops were planted in. Since the soil was preventing crop growth, farmers weren't able to harvest or sell any product, which in turn affected the economy in the country. In addition, the farmers were over-plowing the land, a mistake that only worsened conditions. The excessive removal of water in the ground rendered the soil dry and more likely to be easily picked up by the wind. To ensure stability to food production and crop yields, the U.S. Government implemented the first law that permitted the regulation of agriculture. The Soil Conservation Act of 1935 assigned regulations to conserve farmland. In addition, the government created New Deal programs that helped the farmers, who were in economic trouble and displaced during the Dust Bowl, increase production for World War II.
Dust storms internationally
Dust storms are not exclusive to the United States of America. Several countries face regular dust storms due to very dry, arid, and desert climate conditions. Some of the most common places to experience dust storms are in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Cyprus. These storms are called Haboobs, which means "violent wind" in Arabic. This modern day dust storm can disrupt the way of life for everyday travelers. Haboobs cause problems in transportation, visibility, and health. These dust storms are very similar in condition to the storms of the Great Plains, and are prevalent in areas with high wind speed and dry soil. The next great Dust Bowl is most likely to occur in the Middle East and may be as calamitous as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Other closely related articles in this wiki include:
- Merriam-Webster | Simple definition of dust storm.
- PBS Introduction: Surviving the Dust Bowl .
- Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Vol. 1. In Context Series Detroit: Gale, 2008. p280-282. Climate Change: In Context | Dust storms.
- Richard C. Hanes and Sharon M. Hanes, vol. 1, Gale, 2002, pp. 168-185. World History in Context l Dust Bowl 1931-1939.
- PBS Dust Bowl Introduction 
- National Geographic: Middle Eastern dust storms haboob weather.
Relevant online sources to this wiki article include:
- This is the page on American Geosciences Institute for climate basics.
- Take a look at real stories on PBS from people who experienced the dustbowl black sunday.
- This page on PBS talks about the events that happened after the dustbowl drought.
- If you are interested in myths surrounding the Dust Bowl, you can find more information from this news article about dust bowl myths.
- PBS has the information you need to learn about the economic reasons the Dust Bowl created problems.
- The New Deal helped the communities affected by the Dust Bowl.