How do sand and dust storms occur?

Sandstorm in Kuwait

Our sand and dust storms They are incredible phenomena, and also dangerous if they hit you. They can reduce the visibility of entire cities in a matter of minutes, and they take a long time to disappear.

If you want to know how they are produced, do not take your eyes off the monitor as we will explain in detail what are they and why do these peculiar storms occur.

Sand and dust storms do not usually appeal to us, because by reducing visibility, they pose a serious danger on the road. However, thanks to them, forests like those of the Amazon can be nurtured, so they also have a very positive side.

Since a sandstorm is not the same as a dust storm, we are going to see them separately:

Sand storms


Sandstorms are made up of sand particles from arid areas that stay on the surface. When the speed and intensity of the wind increases, these particles are propelled upwards, being able to travel long distances horizontally.

The lands where they are most produced are those in which there is hardly any vegetation some, a fact that favors the particles being lifted upwards. For example, in the Sahara desert or in the plains of North America, they are very common.

Dust storms

Dust storm

The main difference that these types of storms have with those of sand is the measurement of the particles in suspension. In this case, they are less than 100 microns, that is, 0'01000000cm, a characteristic that allows them to be more extensive, being able to make us feel that the environment is polluted. In addition, due to their characteristics, they prevent the formation of clouds, so that rainfall in the areas where they form is very scarce.

The place where they occur the most is the Sahara desert, where the trade winds are responsible for the dust reaching our country, especially during the summer.

How are they formed?

Sandstorm seen from the air

For the formation of this type of phenomena it is necessary that there be a thermal contrast between the ground and the middle and upper layers of the atmosphere. As the earth's surface is warmer, the air masses, together with the dust they carry from it, can reach high levels of the troposphere. But it does not end there, since they need this air to collide with something colder so that it can rise even higher; and That is what the cold air from the highest layers of the atmosphere will do.

Thus, there must be a frontal system in an area that has a warm and arid surface. The front air system, being cold, displaces the warm air in the room, causing the pressure gradient to increase. In this way, the wind speed also increases, standing between the 80 and 160km / h, causing turbulence. Surface temperatures, being very warm, cause convection currents.

The particles can thus remain suspended in the air for a long time.

How to protect yourself from a sand or dust storm?

Sandstorm in Egypt

Being phenomena that decrease visibility, we must be very careful if we get a. Whether you live in an area where they are common or if they happen very occasionally, it is important to know how to act so that you can get out of it unscathed.

In the car

If you are driving and you suddenly see a wall of sand or dust approaching you, you can do two things:

  • Go through itas long as you can reach the maximum speed allowed without endangering anyone.
  • Stop in a corner and wait. It is the most recommended option, but also the one that usually worries the most, since you will soon find yourself wrapped in sand, and you will not see anything for a few minutes. To make sure that nothing is going to happen to you, veer towards the shoulder (or better, get off the road if you can), and close the windows.


If a sand or dust storm hits you when you're walking, the first thing to do is put a mask over your nose and mouth. If you have it, apply some petroleum jelly to your nostrils to prevent them from drying out.

Once done, you have to protect your eyes. To do this, you can protect the face with one arm, or wear airtight glasses. You should know that normal lenses do not protect too much against particles; better use airtight.

Now, you have to seek refuge. The most recommended is get into a leeward zone (that is, it protects from the direction in which the wind is coming), such as behind tall trees or palm trees; and whenever you can, be in a high place.

And finally, protect yourself from heavy objects that can fly out. Help yourself with your backpack, or get as close to the ground as you can.

Sand and dust storms can cause many problems, so better be forewarned. Be attentive to the weather warnings in your city so that you are not caught off guard.

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  1.   Adrian Rodriguez Areal said

    You see, I don't know if they have noticed; and if this can be read by the page or; rather, the editor / s of it, I recommend that you do so, since what is stated in this document is a conyradiction like a cathedral and also accompanied by a detail that in my opinion; and ensuring the good of the page itself; If it is intended to be rigorous and as objective and credible as possible together with its publications, I recommend that the editor / editors pay attention to the following:

    In this document it is stated that the main difference between a sandstorm and a dust storm is the difference between the granules or particles that make up or are the cause of said storm; in the case of the polno storm, it is stated that its particles are made of dust; Contrary to the sand that, as its name indicates, are fogged by turbulence or by meteorological disturbances of a wind nature caused by the displacement of air masses, which causes the ascent of the sand grains and the entire process. But the problem is that when or when the data on the dimensions of the dust granules that cause dust storms is given is given a dimensional reference; indicating and affirming in the text / in the document with complete clarity, »literal»: that the dust particles oscillate or have a size smaller than 100 microns; or what is the same, 100 µm micrometers; written with the letter "mu" as a prefix of the international system of units; indicating that it is less than 0,1mm or> 0,1mm; whose measurement is equal to 0,0001cm and not 0,01000000cm as indicated on the page and it is also stated that it is the same. Which means an error of stratospheric dimensions for an article that pretends to be scientific. And what is worse. It is also accompanied by 7 significant units in particular to give it greater rigor; when all it really does is make the situation or the statement expressed in the document even worse.