The Main Stream

Aug 7, 2012 10:05 AM

UA researcher exploring ways to predict dust storms

TUCSON - Arizona haboobs have taken the online world by storm. People post videos, pictures and time lapses. But while the weather phenomena are neat to look at, living in the dust can be dangerous.

Scientists say climate change will increase the amount of storms in the future. That's why one UA professor is taking action to predict when the storms will hit.

William Sprigg, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, is working with the Weather Service, using NASA satellite images to predict when the storms will surface. "We can make one or two day forecasts of these dust storms and it's incredible to me that we have actually reached this point," Sprigg says.

The aim is to give people time to get inside to avoid exposure and protect their health. "Schoolchildren can be scheduled not be outside for activities," Sprigg says. "We can provide alerts to the highway authorities so people don't get caught in the dust blowing across the highway," Sprigg says.

Currently the Weather Service issues warnings, but doesn't keep detailed records. Sprigg and a team of researchers map the data every couple of weeks.

Sprigg hopes the fore-warning will keep the roads safe and reduce medical costs associated with dust-driven diseases like Valley Fever.

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