September 24th 2009
Dust storm reaches Magnetic Island
The Australian mainland, and Townsville with it, virtually disappeared this morning as the huge dust storm which has stretched from NSW all the way to Cairns reached Magnetic Island today.
The concentrations here don't seem to be as heavy as in southern Australia but the fact that the phenomena has come this far is disturbing in terms of sheer size.
While dust storms are a feature of the Australian climate they are rarely witnessed in eastern coastal areas and this storm, which scientists and meteorologists claim, has had, in Western NSW, the highest concentrations of air-borne dust seen so far this century, will no doubt be seen by many as yet another manifestation of climate change.
The view from Cockle Bay where Townsville
is approximately 8kms away
Griffith University dust expert Craig Strong has been reported saying the storm is 1000km long and 400kms wide. Other reports expect the storm to stretch over 3000kms and make it to the tip of Cape York and even Darwin.
Cape Cleveland completely disappeared
"Due to its rarity in our region there is little known about how the storm might affect the Great Barrier Reef," said, Magnetic Island based marine scientist, Dr Katharina Fabricius, an expert on the effects of sedimentation on corals. She was uncertain just how the dust might affect the reef. “On the Great Barrier Reef we mostly get winds that come from the sea rather than from the land, and these sea breazes carry little dust. In contrast, the dust in a storm coming from the land will carry nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and organic carbon, but also trace elements such as iron. Algal blooms like Trichodesmium are potentially triggered by iron and phosphorus, so whether we will see any effects this time will really depend on how much of the dust there is, and how much of it will settle on the water surface” she said.
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