A wall of sand gathers on the horizon, swiftly gaining momentum and mass, devouring everything in its path. As it approaches, those in the know scramble to their homes for protection, others cover their heads and mouths, and wait for the tempest to subside. For several hours, yellow engulfs the city. Then suddenly, the impetuous force behind this meteorological phenomenon calms. The mile-high cloud of dust once again settles on the land, back where it belongs.
The following are some of the most amazing images of it captured on camera.
1. This photo was taken at 8,000ft while flying over the Negev Desert in southern Israel. The sandstorm was moving at an incredible 70km/hr and rose up to around 1km high. Not a welcoming sight if it was your first visit to the country, eh?
2. This very cool photo captured a sandstorm gathering over Kansas. Maybe Dorothy and Toto will fall from the sky at any moment... or was that a hurricane?
3. Another image of a sandstorm gathering over Kansas.
4. Kansas seems to be where sandstorms like to party. Due to the amount of farming in the area, during the drier months, strong winds pick up the loose soil and sand. If it's very warm, changes in the atmosphere produce much stronger winds near the ground resulting in massive dust storms.
5. Sandstorms in Australia are not uncommon but, since farmers are working larger and larger areas of land, there is more loose soil and sand for the winds to play with, producing whoppers of sandstorms like this one rolling through Griffith, New South Wales.
6. The Harmattan - a southwesterly gale that blows down from the Sahara during the dry season - means sandstorms are a regular occurence in Mali. This storm has grown so big it's difficult to see where the sand ends and clouds begin.
7. It's hard to tell the magnitude of this Sudanese sandstorm, until you look at the size of the people in the fore ground. Scary! And they're just watching it come for them. Hard. As. Nails. Although, they're probably so used to it they just cover their heads and wait for it to pass.
8. Now, surely you'd leg it if you saw this one coming? And, judging by the distinct lack of people in the foreground, they thought the same thing. It was taken north of Agadez, in Niger.
9. Not sure where this sandstorm is but it's still impressive, and kind of weird too. The sky is quite blue and the trees aren't showing much sign of being wind-beaten, but there's definitely a storm there.
10. Sandstorms are the last thing you'd expect in Iceland, but they're actually quite common and can occur suddenly in the Askja and Sprengisandur regions.
11. A sandstorm gathers over El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico. This one seems to go for miles along the horizon.
12. The beginnings of a sandstorm rumbles behind the infamous Two Mittens in Monument Valley, Utah, part of the Navajo Indian Reservation. Great image, too.
13. A sandstorm gathers out at sea near Velvia, Fuji. Bet those guys on the boat are chugging along for dear life!
Cities Devoured by Sand
14. In April 2005, a massive sandstorm rose over the US military camp in Al Asad, Iraq, just before nightfall. Yeah, OK, it's not strictly a city but served as one, practically.
15. This and the following pics are probably the most famous of all recently photographed sandstorms, with a number of images by various military personal circulating the internet.
16. A massive sandstorm rose over the US military camp in Al Asad, Iraq, just before nightfall in April 2005.
Another image of the massive sandstorm that rose over the US military camp in Al Asad, Iraq, just before nightfall in April 2005.
2. Impressive was also a sandstorm approaching the Bajrawia pyramids in Sudan. We don't often hear of these pyramids and there seems to be little written about them, so if anyone has visited them, lives near them or knows their history, do get in touch.
17. It's not surprising that sandstorms sweep through Sudan; whole cities are engulfed by them regularly. Sudanese refugee camps are often hit hard.
18. A prolonged drought in the great plains of the US during the 1930s left vast dry, dusty areas exposed. And because farmers at the time heavily ploughed already dry grasslands to plant wheat, the whole situation was much worse than it could have been. The same thing is now happening in various parts of world, including outback Australia, where sandstorms now reach the cities on the coast.
19. Here's a great image of a massive sandstorm in Khartoum.
20. A massive sandstorm in Khartoum - you can tell the people are used to these as they're going about their daily business as if nothing is happening.
21. Sometimes, people have no idea what's hiding behind the buildings, heading their way.
22. The infamous pyramids at Giza must have seen a few sandstorms in their day. Cairo, which is just out of shot of the Pyramids no doubt bears the brunt of the storms, too.
23. This scary scene was captured in the evening, near Wakeeney, Kansas, just before the storm blocked out the sun and enveloped the town. The sandstorm is said to have caused the death of a Kansas State Senator and one other person.
24. Imagine waking up to this foreboding scene first thing in the morning. You'd definitely just head back to bed and wait for it all to pass.
Satellite Images of Sandstorms
25. Satellite images are perfect for seeing what really happens on the ground. This sandstorm, blowing from the west coast of Africa, reaches for miles out to sea.
26. Giant sandstorm swirl over the Gobi Desert, in China.
Great sweeps of sand blow over the Canary Islands off the north African coast and far over the Atlantic.
Here's an awesome image of a massive rolling sandstorm; maybe over the Persian Gulf but it's hard to make out.
27. The boot of Italy is visible just beneath the clouds, great gusts of sand heading its way.
Here, a sandstorm blows over the Mediterranean and Cyprus.
28. The Sahara sees a lot of sandstorms. Obviously!
Here's a sandstorm over the Persian Gulf.
29. A sandstorm brewing over Beijing.
30. The Gobi Desert is another sandstorm paradise; if you could call it that!
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