Dust Storm Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Maybe you've been caught in a rainstorm or hoped for a snowstorm, and I'm sure you've literally heard thunderstorms, but do you know anything about dust storms? Read on to discover what a dust storm is, how it happens and the damage it can cause.

What Is a Dust Storm?

Get ready to be blown away! Believe it or not, what you are about to learn about dust storms might even prepare you for life on Mars! So, hold onto your hats and let's get blowing...I mean going!

A dust storm is a cloud of tiny soil particles that are swept up by the wind. Dust storms can develop quickly and with little warning. They can be huge with some stretching for miles and bringing life to a standstill until the air clears.

Dust Storms can be huge.

Dust Storms Need Dry Land and Wind

Dust storms are a form of wind erosion, which is the wearing away of something due to the wind.

For a dust storm to form, there must be two things present: a patch of dry, exposed ground and wind. Compare a handful of dry dirt to a handful of mud. If you blow on the dry dirt, dust particles will float away, but if you blow on the mud, nothing will happen. The water in the mud holds the soil particles together.

Dust storms are often associated with cold fronts and thunderstorms. When these weather conditions move into an area, they push air. That pushed air, or wind, rushes along the ground picking up light particles of dust, sand, and debris.

Where Do They Happen?

Dust storms can develop in any dry area. Some places, like deserts, are always dry, and therefore prone to dust storms. In the Middle East, where there are many deserts, dust storms are called haboobs.

Droughts and the destruction of vegetation (i.e. plants and trees) can make non-desert areas prone to dust storms. A drought, which is a long period without rain, is a natural occurrence that causes the ground to get very dry. A loss of vegetation is often the result of actions taken by people and animals.

People cut down forests, but if they cut down too many trees, they can leave the ground exposed. Animals eat grass, so if a rancher has too many cattle grazing in an area, the grass covering the ground disappears. With no roots or cover to protect it, the soil dries, making it prone to blow away.

1930s Dust Bowl

In the 1930s, the central and southwestern American states experienced the Dust Bowl. The frequent dust storms that defined the Dust Bowl were caused by a combination of drought and lost vegetation due to farmers over-plowing their fields.

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