Saturday, 26 September 2009


This report has come to The Network
courtesy of that great Networker, Activist & Environmental Researcher
Maria Reidl of Mildura, Victoria.
Thank you Maria.
And thank you to the DustWatch Team in Gunnedah, NSW.
The Network would welcome any similar reports from across the country.
I commend the work of this group because it highlights not only the agricultural and economic impact of this disaster, but the social and health aspects as well.  
In fact, for many Australians, it has impacted every part of their lives this week.
I don't know what to say, except that some of us are thinking of the realities faced by many Australians across the nation
DustWatch interim report 22-23September
Prepared by John Leys and the DustWatch Team, Gunnedah

Dust storms have been occurring regularly in western NSW and around Lake Eyre in South Australia for the last two months.

Dust is from drought-affected areas in Western NSW and the eastern Lake Eyre Basin. It is not from the Riverina as reported.

We are losing about 75,000 tonnes of dust per hour off the NSW coast north of Sydney.

This information is sourced from the DustWatch community- based monitoring project. This has and is being funded by NHT, Caring for our Country (C4oC), from grants from Lower Murray Darling, Murray and Lachlan Catchment Management Authorities plus in-kind contributions from all inland CMAs. The project is supported by DECCW in NSW and nationally via Griffith University with funding from LandCare and C4oC.

Two Dust Storms

On Tuesday 22, a dust storm passed though Canberra (picture below) which was about 200km wide and came from the lower Lake Eyre Basin

(source: )
  • The second dust storm started on Wednesday 23 and hit Sydney the same day. It started Tuesday 22 in South Australia (can be seen in the far west of the picture as a rolling dust storm) and arrived in eastern NSW on very strong (80-100km) westerly winds today.
  • There is no satellite image for this dust storm at the time of writing.
  • This storm is huge! We are losing about 75,000 tonnes of dust an hour off the NSW coast north of Sydney.
  • Worst event since the 1960s.
  • The event extends from the Queensland border down to the Riverina. It missed Hay and the south west corner of the State.
  • The dust results from low ground cover exacerbated by the extended drought and very high winds (80-90km/h).
Description of Dust Storm
The DustWatch community network has recorded the following events:
  • Broken Hill: first storm Monday 3 hours duration – severe dust storm. Second storm Tuesday 6 hours duration - severe dust storm,
  • Bourke: 6 hours duration – severe dust storm, started Tuesday night now finished
  • Cobar: 12 hours duration, still going at 8am– severe dust storm
  • Condobolin: 3 hours duration – severe dust storm, still going and dusty
  • Coomba: 3 hours dust on Monday –moderate dust storm
  • Cowra: 4 hours duration – severe dust storm, clearing now
  • Dubbo: 6 hours duration – severe dust storm, and still going
  • Gunnedah: 5 hours duration, still going on – severe dust storm and still going
  • Hay: no dust storms
  • Hillston: no data
  • Ivanhoe: 2 hours duration – severe dust storm
  • Lake Victoria: no dust storm
  • Parkes: 4 hours duration – severe dust storm, clearing but still very dusty
  • Menindee: 4 hours duration – severe dust storm and now clear
  • Moree: 3 hours duration – severe, still going
  • Temora: 1 hour duration - mandate dust storm, still hazy
  • Tibooburra: 30 hours of dust –since Monday night! – two severe dust storms, finished midnight
  • Walgett: 6 hours duration – severe and still going
  • West Wyalong: 4 hours duration – moderate and clear now
  • White Cliffs: 7 hours duration – severe dust storm and the dustiest place in the state!
  • Soil loss from farming land
  • Disruption to transport: airlines, motor cars, ferries
  • Dust pollution, e.g. filters in air conditioners
  • Health implications from fine particles
  • Cancellation of sporting events – imagine if this happened on Saturday!
  • Deposition to oceans of iron rich dust, like this dust, will cause phytoplankton blooms in oceans
  • Dust on snow decreases aledo and makes glaciers melt faster
  • Red, fine dust tends to warm the upper atmosphere so has impact on climate
  • Keep ground cover above 50% by using good land management practices
  • Wind breaks and trees in the landscape
John Leys, Stephan Heidenreich and Mike Case
The DustWatch Team

Dr John Leys
DustWatch Southern Co-ordinator
Principal Research Scientist, 

Scientific Services Division, 
Department of Environment and Climate Change
PO Box 462, Gunnedah NSW 2380, AUSTRALIA
Ph +61 2 6740 2345 Fx +61 2 6742 3129

DustWatch is funded by the Lower Murray Darling, Lachlan, and Murray CMAs, the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW and Griffith University.

The MODIS image is courtesy of MODIS Rapid Response Project at NASA/GSFC, the fire data is courtesy of the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) and the rainfall map of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. This project would not be possible without the assistance of all the DustWatchers who provide observations and help with maintenance of the instruments at the DustWatch stations. We gratefully acknowledge their contribution.

Further reading:
East Coast Lows and Dust Storms

The Melbourne dust-storm of February 1983


Total Pageviews