That means more deadly accidents, more harmful pollution and more health problems for people breathing in the irritating dust particles.
But one leading researcher says there also needs to be a lot more study of the effects of the tons of dust being kicked up into the air, especially the hidden health costs for millions of people living in Arizona’s dust zone.
“We already know the cost of these storms in general,” said William Sprigg, a research professor in the University of Arizona’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics, who is working on ways to predict the storms. “I would like to see a much more thorough examination of the effects of the dust on the region.”
That is particularly pressing because some scientists are predicting more frequent and larger dust storms as a result of climate change, which one environmental expert says will cause more powerful and more erratic weather patterns in the Southwest.
Sprigg notes that potential health problems go far beyond common respiratory ailments. Dust storms carry a noxious mix of fungi, heavy metals from pollution, fertilizers, stockyard fecal matter, chemicals and bacteria, which can cause cardiovascular disease, eye diseases and other illnesses.