How deadly are dust storms?

A new research paper from NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society finds that dust storms – previously assumed to be rather rare and isolated to particular regions – are contributing to a larger number of U.S. traffic fatalities than are recorded. This research also proposes modifications to the current reporting classifications to more accurately capture dust storm impact.

“We found that dust events caused life losses comparable to events like hurricanes and wildfires in some years,” says Daniel Tong, author of the paper and research scientist at NOAA and an associate professor of Atmospheric Oceanic and Earth Sciences at George Mason University. “Greater awareness could reduce crashes and possibly save lives.”