Dust storm from the Chihuahuan Desert • Earth.com

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features a dust storm that was kicked up along the Mexican border of the United States on March 16, 2021. 

The storm carried large streams of dust from the Chihuahuan Desert with sustained winds of 35 to 45 miles per hour, and gusts up to 65 miles per hour. 

The dust turned the skies yellow and beige across northern Mexico, New Mexico, and west Texas.

According to NASA, the storm lasted nearly eight hours, reduced visibility to below a half-mile in some places, and degraded air quality – particularly in the El Paso-Juárez metropolitan area.

“The Chihuahuan Desert has been experiencing a drought in conjunction with La Niña, so conditions were even drier than usual and particularly primed for dust storms,” said Professor Thomas Gill of the University of Texas–El Paso. 

“What was probably most unusual was the long-lasting nature of the event. Due to the relatively slow passage of the cyclone across New Mexico, El Paso experienced dusty weather basically for eight hours non stop – more than twice as long as the historical average for dust events in the city – and until well after dark, which is also unusual.”

Professor Gill identified dust sources in Willcox Playa, Laguna Los Moscos, the Nuevo Casas Grandes River, the Santa Maria River basin, Laguna Palomas, Paleolake Palomas, the Mimbres River floodplain, and White Sands. 

“There were also a lot of source areas, especially early in the event, much farther south in Chihuahua than typically seen over the years,” noted Professor Gill. “The winds from passing cyclones or fronts typically don”t penetrate that far south with much intensity.”

The image was captured by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day