The Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Lubbock and Project Climate hosted a lecture on the differences between a haboob and dust storms on Thursday.
During the lecture, which was hosted in the Texas Tech Classical and Modern Languages building, Karin Ardon-Dryer, associate professor in geosciences, said the key difference between a haboob and a dust storm is the pressure involved.
A dust storm is a low-pressure weather system consisting of dust particles being picked up by heavy winds, Ardon-Dryer said.
“For a haboob to happen, what we need is a formation of clouds,” she said. "The air that comes down needs to go somewhere. So, as this moves, you get this strong wall of dust."
The pressure of a haboob causes the system to move more quickly than a dust storm, Ardon-Dryer said. The Atmospheric Science Group is currently trying to figure out whether haboobs or dust storms are more common in Lubbock.
When either storm causes a noticeable loss in visibility, Ardon-Dryer said anyone driving should turn on their lights, pull over and wait out the storm.
“You might think you’re safe, but the driver in front of you or behind you might bump into you,” Ardon-Dryer said.
Using corn crop as an example, Ardon-Dryer said dust storms can also cause harm to crop. Over-exposure to dust particles from a storm can cause damage to someone’s lungs.
“Smaller particles can cause cardiovascular events,” she said. “Larger particles can cause asthma attacks, (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and air-way infections.”
A common infection caused by dust storms in the U.S. is Valley Fever, Ardon-Dryer said. She defined the fever as a disease originating from fungi in the soil.
Several weeks after the initial infection, Ardon-Dryer said someone with Valley Fever will begin suffering common flu symptoms, such as chest pain and coughing.
Discussing the internal workings of the body, Ardon-Dryer said an overwhelming presence of dust particles in a person’s bloodstream can cause cell death.
“The cells are grabbing the dust, they’re doing what is known as engulfing,” she said. “We noticed that when they do that … at some point the nuclei starts to change which turns into cell death.”
Even if cells do not die after inhaling too many dust particles, Ardon-Dryer said it takes longer for cells to divide. Her group does not know what causes this, but they hope to find out why over the next year.
In an interview after the lecture, CCL committee member Susan Gillette said the lobby helped sponsor the event because they wanted the audience to understand changes in the environment and how those changes affect people's health.
Project Climate President Ankush Saha said it is important to host events, such as this lecture, to help the audience understand a local hazard faced by the Lubbock area.
This was the first of a lecture series Project Climate is planning, Saha said. The other lectures are planned for next semester.
The purpose of Project Climate is to teach climate science, advocate for sustainability around the Tech campus and to help implement those changes, Saha said. This is the project’s first semester of operation.