When all these elements combine during “ideal” conditions, huge tempests of blowing dust rise up and sandblast anyone or anything in their path at speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph).
These storms can get so large that they are even noticeable from the ISS. For instance, an astronaut shot the picture above, which shows a massive dust plume coming off Canada.
Similar dust storms happen regularly off the coasts of Africa, China, and other places where trade winds can carry the debris thousands of miles.
It’s not uncommon for airborne Saharan dust to create dirty, hazy skies all the way over in the northern Caribbean, creating a scene that doesn’t look too pleasant in the day but makes for gorgeous, tangerine-tinted sunsets.
And while dust storms can wreak havoc on buildings, people, and animals, they are great at delivering minerals and nutrients to vegetation in places like the Amazon.