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Stifling dust bad omen for future

CANBERRA – The vast dust clouds driven by violent storms that turned the skies of New South Wales and Queensland red yesterday may be a harbinger of things to come.

Weather forecasters are predicting another storm front for tomorrow, and warn that an emerging El Nino and land dehydrated by a decade of drought could produce a series of storms ripping topsoil from Australia’s fragile interior.

There have already been three large dust storms in the past three weeks in the region around South Australia’s vast Lake Eyre – where much of yesterday’s dust was generated – and last week clouds of granulated red earth were blown to New Zealand.

Some of yesterday’s cloud, which engulfed most of NSW and southern Queensland, will also cross the Tasman: thousands of tonnes of dust an hour is estimated to have been pumped across NSW.

The Bureau of Meteorology said this was one of the worst since the 1940s, when dust storms cloaked much of the continent’s southeast and forced Adelaide to use street lighting in the middle of the day.

Chris Eiser, of the NSW Environment Department, told ABC radio that measurements of particle pollution were 10 times the worst on record.

Worse may be in store.

Although large dust storms are relatively common in Australia and researchers are reluctant to link recent events to climate change, forecasts predict that global warming will cause more droughts and similar storms.

Yesterday’s red clouds were driven north from South Australia by a front that caused chaos and flash flooding in Adelaide, and triggered a tornado in the north of the state.

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Ken Ring on 24/09/2009 10:34am

Dust storms are not unusual in the Interior, where the combination of dryness, warm temperatures and wind can be a common event. Usually the dust storms blow to the east. The globe is not warming. But if it was, this would cause more evaporation which would lead to the generation of more rain, not less. Any linking of global warming to drought or dust storms is merely another Green ploy to justify more taxation in order to increase poverty and reduce world population.

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