Nearly 2 weeks ago, I woke up in Sydney to an eerie, red sky. Along my walk to the CBD, the sky was a reddish gray, dust particles flew everywhere and a "cloud" had descended on Sydney with a foreboding permanence about it, as if to show us what life could be like in a very polluted Sydney.
The truth is that New South Wales was hit by the most massive dust storm it's experienced in 60 years. Similar storms are typical in Australia's interior but rarely travel this far east. With eight years of drought and record temperatures that had baked outback soils dry, the outback's topsoil was easy to transport. Some estimate that nearly 1 million tons of topsoil were deposited in the Pacific Ocean as a result of the storm.
One of the bigger questions raised has been regarding the dust's toxicity. Australia conducts nuclear testing and uranium mining in its vast, desolate interior. Although pollution levels significantly increased following the storm, scientists have argued that the dust won't pose health concerns as it came from a variety of places, any levels of uranium would have been diluted, etc. It's not a hugely comforting thought, however, it's an eye opener that we're all part of one big ecosystem. The damage from the storm is still being assessed. This will take a toll on Australia's agriculture, yet there are predictions the "dusting" of the sea and ocean could have positive effects. Here are some pictures from that morning found on the Sydney Morning Herald's site.