The Remarkable Beauty That Is a Sandstorm

Apr 6, 2018 by Lisa Scarpa
10 MIN

Sandstorms, a strange but beautiful tragedy that strikes. They often come without warning and reduce visibility for several days. These large dust storms have clouds that and range for miles. They even rise up to 10,000 feet or 305 meters, with dangerous wind speeds of 25 miles per hour. They are actually the 3rd most harming weather condition in the U.S. They are generally found in the dryest and hottest regions on earth, such as the Sahara Desert. You can also find these treacherous storms in the dry and flat regions of the U.S. like Kansas or Oklahoma.   

They are so powerful, that dust all the way from the Sahara Desert is often blown across the Atlantic Ocean, towards Miami, where miami then experiences bright orange and red sunsets or sunrises. It often goes as far as the Caribbean and the Amazon Basin.

A huge sandstorm engulfs the Saudi capital of Riyadh on March 10, 2009.

 Credit: Jad Saab


Just recently, a vigorous sandstorm blew from the Sahara Desert across the Mediterranean Sea, into Europe and even left its mark in Sochi, Russia. The ski slopes of Sochi, Russia were left frosted in orange snow!

Orange snow at the Rosa Khutor ski resort in Krasnaya Polyana, after a sandstorm from Africa reached Sochi, Russia, on March 23, 2018

Credit: Sergey Tsaun


Orange snow on a peak at the Rosa Khutor ski resort in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, the result of a sandstorm in Africa, on March 23, 2018.

Credit: Sergey Tsaun


A dust storm approaches the Inata Gold Mine in Burkina Faso on June 1, 2012.

Credit: CC BY-SA


A large dust storm sweeps across downtown Phoenix, Arizona, on July 21, 2012.

Credit: Ross D. Franklin


A dust storm billows across the western desert of Iraq on April 26, 2005, in Al Asad, Iraq. 

Credit: Shannon Arledge

A woman protects her face against a sandstorm on a street in Tianjin municipality on March 20, 2010.

Credit: Vincent Du

Red dust envelops the Sydney Harbour Bridge on September 23, 2009, in Sydney, Australia. Sydney residents woke that morning to one of the worst "red dust" storms in the city's history, as a blanket of red dust hit the city just before dawn.

Credit: James D. Morgan


The Sydney Opera House engulfed in a dust cloud on September 23, 2009

Credit: Brendon Thorne


A 1937 photo of a dust storm approaching Springfield, Colorado. The late 1930s in central North America were the Dust Bowl years, a period where extensive drought and poor farming practices led to years of severe dust storms and widespread ecological damage.

Credit: AP


A general view of Homs, Syria, during a sandstorm on September 7, 2015.

Credit: Omar Sanadiki 


Indian street children wrap themselves in a drape as they take shelter from a dust storm in New Delhi, India, on June 13, 2010.

Credit: Gurinder Osan


An internally displaced boy, who fled a military offensive in the Swat valley region, covers his face with his clothes while walking through a dust storm at the UNHCR Jalozai camp, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, on July 2, 2009.

Credit: Akhtar Soomro

The Ming Dynasty City Wall Relic is seen amid a heavy sandstorm on April 11, 2006, in Xian of Shaanxi Province, China.

Credit: China Photos

A gigantic cloud of dust, known as a haboob, advances over Khartoum, Sudan, on April 29, 2007.

Credit: AFP

Ethnic Tibetan worshippers enter a monastery to celebrate Monlam, or Great Prayer Festival, during a sandstorm in Aba, Sichuan province, China, on February 17, 2008.

Credit: Reinhard Krause

A large dust storm blows in near Lubbock, Texas.

Credit: Caleb Holder

The Beijing skyline, viewed during a sandstorm on February 28, 2013.

Credit: Feng Li

A Burning Man participant walks through a desert dust storm in formal clothes on her way to a wedding in the middle of the desert on the third day of the Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, on August 30, 2017.

Credit: Jim Bourg


German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took this image of an extensive sandstorm, punctuated by the white clouds of thunderstorms over the Sahara desert while aboard the International Space Station in 2014.

Credit: Alexander Gerst / ESA 

Dust and sand storms in the Middle East and other arid regions tend to come in two forms. "Haboobs" are dramatic events associated with storm fronts, and often appear as walls of sand and dust marching across the landscape. But like thunderstorms, haboobs tend to be abrupt and short-lived. Then there are the long-lived, wide-reaching dust storms that can last for days. In Iraq, such storms are often associated with the "shamal," a pattern of persistent northwesterly winds. In 2015, a storm with characteristics of both the shamal and the haboob moved across Iraq, Iran, and the Persian Gulf region. NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the dust storm on September 1, 2015. The dust event first appeared in NASA satellite imagery along the Iraq–Syria border on August 31. By the next day, the storm took on the cyclonic shape visible in this image. By September 2, the dust cloud reached the Persian Gulf, and had spread out across the entire basin by the following day. 

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Have you ever been to Indonesia, Siberia, India or Pakistan? Well Jimmy Nelson had! He explored the most remote places on Earth to capture exclusive photographs of the last surviving tribes on Earth

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