We had a welcome thunderstorm yesterday which dumped about 15mm on us, and I went to sleep with wet earth scenting my gardening dreams. At 4am the stench of dust woke me, and there was a weird foggy look to the still-dark sky. At 6am it looked like this:
The westerly wind was cold -- usually it's a hot wind that we associate with bushfires. It was typically strong, though -- we were getting 60 km/h gusts while I took the photos, and 80 km/h later in the morning.
This dust is from northern South Australia, most likely the Lake Eyre Basin. It has travelled 1400km to us and is now on its way to Brisbane and New Zealand. In Sydney, the airborne particulates reached such dangerous levels that school children were kept inside all day. The Twig missed out on his school swimming lesson and on both outdoor breaks today*, but was kept happy indoors with domino runs, his latest craze. People with lung diseases were advised to stay indoors unless they needed medical assistance as a result of the dust-storm!
This dust-storm is unique. The last bad dust-storm in Sydney was in 1944, but it was not on the scale of today's. Moreover, our cultivation techniques have improved since then with the move to zero-tillage agriculture, and dust-storms in general have been declining. Today's dust-storm was caused by the present unusually long, unusually hot drought... which will become less unusual in the future, we fear.
* Children in Sydney schools usually have two breaks for eating and playing outdoors. At our school, one is of 35 and one is of 40 minutes.