Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dust storm reaches far north

Michele: We woke up this morning to the smell of smoke. The dust and smoke from New South Wales dust storm has reached us way up here in northern Queensland. Fortunately for us, we are getting much more mild version than they did in Sydney. We have a haze (see photo) and not the horrible thick orange dust that they were hit with in the south. Humidity levels are low and the haze in the photo is just smoke and dust. We can't see Dunk Island just 6km away.

The dust is from dry conditions in the outback down south. The top soil was blown away by storm winds that carry the dust to the coast where most of Australia's population lives. While the accumulated dust in Sydney is a real nuisance, the long lasting harm is the stripping of top soil from farms. Large dust storms occur periodically (every ~6 years) and folks are debating whether climate change has made them more severe. Certainly drought conditions increase the liklihood that soil can be eroded by wind.

In Mission Beach this morning we have canceled our planned hike for today. The acrid smoke (also brought with the westerly winds) and haze in the region are acerbating asthma in many folks. Robin's asthma only kicks up when she is sick, but we are not going to risk it. The smoke is a bit nauseating and takes me back to when Megan Maxwell and I were trapped by a forest fire in Yosemite. Actually the smoke in the valley wasn't bad that time, but I remember lots of nauseating smoke when we were evacuated and had to drive around the fire to get the borrowed tent that was pitched at the pass near Mono Lake. Ask Megan sometime about her love of camping. The smoke here may be from some wildfires but also many of the regional farmers burn the stubble in the sugar cane fields after the harvest.

The forecast is that a southeast wind will pick up this afternoon and clear the air. Meanwhile we are going to hang out in the pool and take it easy - maybe turn on the air conditioning. Yeah, no need to feel sorry for us.

BTW: The 1-story yellow house on the right in the photo is the actual 38 Mitchell Street. You can see that it isn't even next door to us.

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering how much you'd be affected. Your local photo doesn't look that dramatic. The photos of Sydney on make it look uninhabitable.