Q:

What causes a sandstorm?

A:

Quick Answer

Strong winds blowing over loose soil or sand causes sandstorms. During a sandstorm, so much material is picked up by the winds that visibility is greatly reduced. Heating of the air over the desert causes instability in the lower atmosphere, making sandstorms more frequent.

Know More

Full Answer

A sandstorm can last from several hours to a full day. The sand moving within a sandstorm can clog nearly anything mechanical. Breathing is also a problem, and masks are a necessary precaution during a sandstorm. Most sandstorms affect only one to three miles, so air travel is usually not a problem.

There are two types of sandstorms. The first, called a "haboob," an Arabic word for blowing dust, results from strong winds of a severe thunderstorm. The second is caused by the curving of the jet stream which brings strong winds to the ground. Most Americans are familiar with this type, according to Texas A&M University Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

Some of the worst sandstorms form in China and Mongolia. The sand in the air is so dense it changes the color of the rain, creating the appearance of yellow rain falling from the sky. Sandstorms can grow large enough to be seen from space, and on Aug. 24, 2010, the NASA Aqua satellite captured an image of a widespread sandstorm that covered parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Learn more about Storms

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What causes a tornado to form?

    A:

    According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, tornadoes form when warm air creates a rotating updraft in a powerful thunderstorm. When winds blow in sharply different directions or at different speeds in these storms, they can set up a rotation that feeds on itself, creating a condition called a mesocyclone. When this construct rotates and touches the ground, it becomes a tornado.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What causes hail?

    A:

    Thunderstorms cause hail when strong winds push raindrops upward into the atmosphere where the extremely cold air supercools the water and causes it to freeze into spheres of ice. This can occur several times, with balls of ice falling and then being lifted by updrafts, collecting condensation as they go. This results in a distinct layering in hailstones each time a layer of liquid water freezes on the surface.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What states did Hurricane Katrina hit?

    A:

    The states that were directly hit by Hurricane Katrina were Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Many surrounding states were indirectly affected by the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina; however, this was because evacuees from the affected states looked for refuge in these areas. Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia suffered from major flooding due to Katrina.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What are the causes and effects of blizzards?

    A:

    Blizzards are caused when warm air collides with very cold air. For a blizzard to form, the air temperature should be near or below the freezing point of water. A blizzard has sustained wind speeds of 35 miles per hour or more and lasts more than three hours.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore