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Red Sky in the Morning (and All Day)

Australia is a strange but beautiful place. The continent is full of odd plants and animals—many of which can kill you, or at least hurt you a lot—in some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet.But it got even stranger in Sydney and much of eastern Australia this week as a powerful dust storm h...

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The Sydney sky this morning (courtesy of flickr user Nico Nelson)




Australia is a strange but beautiful place. The continent is full of odd plants and animals—many of which can kill you, or at least hurt you a lot—in some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet.



But it got even stranger in Sydney and much of eastern Australia this week as a powerful dust storm has turned the skies red. Much of the continent has been experiencing bad drought conditions; earlier this year, the country outside Melbourne had particularly bad bushfires. Now strong winds over Australia's interior have kicked up tons of the continent's famous red soil high into the air where winds carried it to the east. From the Associated Press:

The dust storms stripped valuable topsoil from primary eastern farmlands. At one stage up to 75,000 tonnes of dust per hour was blown across Sydney and dumped in the Pacific Ocean, but the exact amount of dust dumped on Sydney was still being calculated.



"We've got a combination of factors which have been building for 10 months already -- floods, droughts and strong winds," said Craig Strong from DustWatch at Griffith University in Queensland.



"Add to these factors the prevailing drought conditions that reduce the vegetation cover and the soil surface is at its most vulnerable to wind erosion."


Though it may look a little like the end of the world, it's not much more than a bad spot of weather. Flights have been diverted or canceled, and the local health department has warned people to stay indoors. That said, it's really creepy, isn't it?



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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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