Red Sails in the Sunset

by Dawn Farmer

With thanks to Brian and Russ for the title idea…

Sydneysiders awoke to red dust on the 23rd. It was the biggest dust storm to hit Sydney since 1942. A second storm covered Sydney on Saturday, millions of tons of dust have been dumped on Eastern Australia. Australia is a dry nation; in July Melbourne was named the driest city in Australia. Recall that last year Melbourne suffered catastrophic fires?

What does a million tons of dust look like?
Image courtesy of NASA.

Scientists at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales have shown that the Indian Ocean plays a big role in the climate patterns of Australia. This climate pattern is called the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). The landmark study by Dr Caroline Ummenhofer and Professor Matthew England, explains why La Nina events in the Pacific Ocean, which usually bring rain, have failed in recent years to break the drought. In its negative phase, the IOD is characterized by cool water to the west of Australia and warm water to the north, leading to winds that bring warm moist, rain-bearing air to the continent. In the positive phase, water temperatures are reversed and less moisture travels to Australia. The study was accepted for publication in the journal, Geophysical Review Letters.

Where did the red dust start its journey? I offer you pictures from the sacred red center of Australia.


Kings Canyon

Kata Juta

Red soil

(Opera House picture by REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)

2 replies »

  1. Family members report spending Wednesday hosing down everything. Fire is a regular threat in Australia, so imagine waking to a red glow and finding out it was dust!

    Thanks for the kind words – it really is that red. 🙂 The area around Uluru is fascinating. Uluru itself tells the story of the Dreamtime. I wish everyone an opportunity to visit one day.