These storms are a natural occurrence, increasing during drier seasons as sand and dust accumulates. However, the frequency is rising due to poor land and water management, drought, and climate change according to experts from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The body suggests that over 25 percent of the problem is a result of human activities, with the shifting sand causing more than one million square kilometers of workable land lost annually.
In areas where the dust is lofted by winds, crops, livestock, and topsoil are negatively affected. As the dust travels, it enters the atmosphere and reaches areas with already poor air quality, worsening respiratory diseases.
Find current and forecasted AQI levels on the Weather & Radar home page.
Some countries are already taking steps to protect against such storms. This includes the Great Green Wall in China, a project to plant a wall of trees designed to capture sand and dust from the Gobi Desert before it reaches major cities, as well as halting the expansion of the desert.
In the U.S., we are most often impacted by dust from the Saharan Desert, especially across Florida, which can travel west in the Trade Winds and result in vibrant sunrises and sunsets.