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Life on Mars
September 22, 2009 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Amazing photos of the currently raging Sydney dust storm.
posted by togdon (78 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had no idea there was (nor possibility of) a dust storm in Sydney. Great links--thanks.
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:31 PM on September 22, 2009


Pic from my back porch at 7am this morning.
The colour has turned murky brown/grey now, and the wind is easing.
posted by Duke999R at 8:38 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine who's a transplant to Sydney from parts more desert-like linked to this video to demonstrate what real Australian dust storms are like.

Note that it takes until after the 1:00 minute mark for the woman filming to say anything stronger than "Oh my gosh." After everything has gone completely black.
posted by mayhap at 8:40 PM on September 22, 2009 [21 favorites]


Oh, look, it's Tomorrowmorrowland.

WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:41 PM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Which is to say, Australia has clearly been doing test runs for the apocalypse for years now.
posted by mayhap at 8:41 PM on September 22, 2009


Gorgeous. Inconvenient, I'm betting, but the photos are stunning.
posted by heyho at 8:42 PM on September 22, 2009


We're getting it in Brisbane, too. That's about a thousand kilometres between the distance, for you folks overseas. From my phone's camera:

Picture from my living room window.
Picture from the computer room.

It's overcast here today so it's more a murky brown that the vivid red Duke999R is experiencing. They've had to shut down the river cat ferry service and all planes are grounded. I've only been awake an hour or so (late shift last night) and my throat is already starting to feel very very sad.
posted by Jilder at 8:43 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, 1000km to the north, btw. Queensland.
posted by Jilder at 8:45 PM on September 22, 2009


Picture from my front nature strip at about 11.30. Visibility has increased heaps. Couldn't see past the neighbours house back then. (Ipswich)
posted by b33j at 8:46 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm headed over there in a month and this is...not encouraging.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:46 PM on September 22, 2009


>> I'm headed over there in a month and this is...not encouraging.

I've seen this happen precisely twice in twenty years living in the South East of Queensland. Or, if you like, twice in 7 years.
posted by b33j at 8:47 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm about 60 miles west of Sydney, and it is clearing up now, so expect it to be clear in an hour or so on the coast.
Everything is coated in fine red grit, and the weather says there is not much chance of rain in the next week.
posted by bystander at 8:48 PM on September 22, 2009


Get your ass to Mars Sydney.
posted by aerotive at 8:50 PM on September 22, 2009


The Card Cheat, the radio says it is the most significant for 70 years. Certainly I don't remember anything like it in my lifetime.
posted by bystander at 8:50 PM on September 22, 2009


Melbourne copped a good one in 1983.
posted by Duke999R at 8:54 PM on September 22, 2009


Don't worry The Card Cheat. After you've spent days fighting off our hordes of deadly snakes, sharks, spiders, jellyfish, crocodiles and drunks an all-encompassing dust storm makes for a nice change.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 8:56 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


>> I'm headed over there in a month and this is...not encouraging.

I've seen this happen precisely twice in twenty years living in the South East of Queensland. Or, if you like, twice in 7 years.


Alternately you could just rent a heavily armoured car, don a charming array of leather and spikes, and live that dream!
posted by Jilder at 8:59 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the Youtube video, the related videos are all tagged "100 5123" -- is this a significant number for Sydney or something?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:59 PM on September 22, 2009


Australia doesn't seem like a land for the weak-willed, that's for sure.
posted by maxwelton at 9:04 PM on September 22, 2009


Someone needs to tell Quaid to activate the alien device, plz.
posted by Atreides at 9:07 PM on September 22, 2009


What they don't tell you is that the dust is poisonous and will kill you within three seconds of it somehow biting you.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:16 PM on September 22, 2009


> Don't worry The Card Cheat. After you've spent days fighting off our hordes of deadly snakes, sharks, spiders, jellyfish, crocodiles and drunks an all-encompassing dust storm makes for a nice change.

I was already over there once, ten years ago, but my wife is already petrified by the prospect of crossing paths with a Huntsman. A couple more news stories like this and she might just wait for me in the airport until it's time to leave.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:21 PM on September 22, 2009


It was really intense at sunrise this morning, red sun and red sand. Check out this Broken Hill dust storm.
posted by tellurian at 9:25 PM on September 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Someone needs to tell Quaid to activate the alien device, plz.

Here you go dude.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:26 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to worry, The Card Cheat; Huntsmans (Huntsmen?) are mostly harmless. What my mother used refer to as 'friendly spiders' when I was a kid.

Worry about funnelwebs instead. If that doesn't scare you, I have a book you might enjoy.
posted by MarchHare at 9:33 PM on September 22, 2009


I'm sorry.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:33 PM on September 22, 2009


Broken Hill Australia.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:33 PM on September 22, 2009


A photo I took this week for your consideration, The Card Cheat. I'm not entirely sure what it's eating.

They're actually quite harmless spiders and great pest control. Remember, Huntsman spiders are your friends!
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 9:48 PM on September 22, 2009


Oh, I know they're harmless...I saw one of them the first time I was Down Under. I've passed this information on to my wife. Rationally, she knows this to be true. Irrationally, she believes that if she so much as sees one she'll turn into stone, burst into flame and then melt.

I don't think I'll tell her about the funnelwebs.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:51 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I lived in Sydney, I'd be working on the logo for my new window washing business right now.
posted by braksandwich at 9:56 PM on September 22, 2009


Another one (from my inner-Sydney backyard) for you to consideration, The Card Cheat. Redbacks are not harmless.
posted by tellurian at 9:58 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, Australia, do you want my tourism dollars or not?
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:02 PM on September 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


I was just at a Climate Change forum for work on George Street here in Brisbane so it was kind of ironic because this was a problem in Australia 200 years ago - the loss of topsoil due to deforestation and hard-hoofed graving animals - and it's pretty obvious that fuck all is being done about any of it. Hence the forum. Happily I was able to call Premier Anna Bligh's husband "nearsighted", due to his Climate Change Office's approach to a different issue, so that's party story material for months.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:06 PM on September 22, 2009


I'm glad someone's posted these. And let's get over the comparisons to Broken Hill and Bourke—there's a good reason there's a mountain range between there and Sydney. It's to keep the desert on the other side.

What none of the pictures can get across was the smell this morning. It's like all of the schoolchildren in Sydney have been beating each other with chalk dusters for hours. When the colour of the sky woke me up this morning at 5.30 it was also because I'd left the window open, and my mouth tasted like bitter sand.

Every time I've left my office to go outside this morning I've wanted to brush my teeth.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:15 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, Australia, do you want my tourism dollars or not?

It's a big country. We'll take them in Melbourne, where it's currently clear blue sunny skies.
posted by crossoverman at 10:18 PM on September 22, 2009


It's like all of the schoolchildren in Sydney have been beating each other with chalk dusters for hours.

I compared it to the smell of an unused wooden church in Charters Towers.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:22 PM on September 22, 2009


Wow, that is not something you would get in Vancouver. Just an FYI, Card Cheat, we don't have anything small, poisonous and hidey. Well, ok, the odd black widow but generally.....ok, yeah cougars sort of but honestly most of what will kill you....yes, I know, moose do go underwater and come up out of nowhere but they don't kill a lot of....no, no, the bears you will see coming so don't....well, yeah if you see "little" bears it'll be too late....you know what? Enjoy the dust storm.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:22 PM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sydney currently smells like the bag of a vacuum cleaner when you're empytying it.... but at least it's not so red now.
posted by taff at 10:30 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember driving through a dust storm on the way from Adelaide to Port Augusta. What should have been a fairly quick journey of about three hours ended up taking all day - crawling along at 20-25khm in an overheating four-wheel-drive. It was a tedious nightmare.
posted by awfurby at 10:33 PM on September 22, 2009


I woke at 5 this morning, and instead of my usual city views, there was nothing to see out my window but apocalyptic orange. Those photos are no exaggeration at all, the city really was that colour.

Several people on my morning bus were wearing face masks, and I found myself struggling for breath while walking down the street. Hundreds of city buildings were evacuated this morning because the dust clogged the smoke detectors and set off automatic fire alarms. Also, I saw a day-glo orange poodle!

This afternoon, the local ABC radio host was getting people to call in and claim humorous responsibility for the storm - one guy admitted to washing his cars on the weekend, another woman claims the storm came because she washed her white sheets. I admit I had been wishing for a break from the relentless sunshine, so maybe it's my fault too.

Sydneysiders have been remarkably cheerful about it all, though. I guess city people only rarely have to deal with such powerful natural forces, so when nature intervenes in our plans, we see it as a novelty rather than a crisis. Still, they say climate change will bring us more dust storms, more often, so perhaps we'd better get used to it.
posted by embrangled at 10:59 PM on September 22, 2009


Wow. I've been in dust storms before, in west Texas, but these pictures are so surreal, and definitely not like anything I ever saw in Texas (for one thing, the dirt there is plain, ugly brown, not Mars red). Has this been going on all day? Odd, and fascinating, though I expect also kinda gross to try to breathe in.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:02 PM on September 22, 2009


Everyone around where I am's been blaming the NSW Government, embrangled. It's Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi up to no good again.

/inner-west
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:02 PM on September 22, 2009


Fiasco Da Gama: you're completely right about the smell!!! I knew it reminded me of something but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Well done!
posted by ninazer0 at 11:15 PM on September 22, 2009


Has this been going on all day? Odd, and fascinating, though I expect also kinda gross to try to breathe in. - DiscourseMarker

We started to get blue sky by around 1pm, but the city still smells like a chalk duster, flights are delayed across the east coast of the country, and of course there'll be a lot of cleaning to do to get rid of the dust. The dust is so fine and so constant that you can't quite see it in the air, but it did reduce visibility to a couple of city blocks.

Fiasco da Gama - Well, everything else that goes wrong in Sydney is their fault, I can certainly follow your logic. Still, I like to think the Gods are trying to send a message to our federal leaders about today's climate change summit in New York. Nothing like a morning apocalypse to remind you not to fuck with nature.
posted by embrangled at 11:19 PM on September 22, 2009


Nothing like a morning apocalypse to remind you not to fuck with nature.

Yeah. I'm going to have to go back to the little corner mixed business I looted on my way to the station and apologise now that the world hasn't ended.

sorry man, easy mistake to make
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:19 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus fuck.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:33 AM on September 23, 2009


Better red than dead.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:30 AM on September 23, 2009


It's a big country. We'll take them in Melbourne, where it's currently clear blue sunny skies.

But what about those earthquakes?
posted by h00py at 1:37 AM on September 23, 2009


Amazing pictures. Actually they remind me of the days of camera film when any picture that looked that way would get a stickers saying -basically - "its your fault not ours" slapped on it in the processing lab.
posted by rongorongo at 2:27 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Australia doesn't seem like a land for the weak-willed, that's for sure.

Yar, it's only for cobbers with strong convictions.

But if you have what it takes (or take what others have), when you experience Australia, you'll be Transported.
posted by orthogonality at 2:55 AM on September 23, 2009


Phew. There is no apocalypse happening. You should check the white balance on your cameras.
posted by O.Ruehl at 2:57 AM on September 23, 2009


From this BBC report:

Tanya Ferguson described the dust storm as the weirdest thing she has ever seen in her life.

"It was like being on Mars," she told the BBC, "I haven't been there, obviously, but I imagine that's what the sky would look like."


Obviously.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:43 AM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yet another entry in the long list of ways Australia is actively trying to kill everyone. For everyone else these are True Omens of the End Times; for Australians it's Tuesday.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:29 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I read a Time Magazine (online) article recently about complex systems, like the Earth's climate, or the human circulatory system. The theory posited in the article was that as complex systems approach a 'tipping point' to a big 'state change', complex systems begin to behave erratically, with more volatility. In other words, a state change isn't a long, long, slow change done tiny bit by tiny bit. Your heart keeps beating more or less at the normal rate, but with increasingly common murmurs, your pulse speeds up and slows down, and this gets more dramatic until finally...heart attack, and it stops beating. They call this increasing volatility preceding a major state change in a complex system 'squealing'.

In the article they postulated that as we approach a major climatological state change, the squealing will likely manifest as wild swings in temperature, some regions way hotter than normal, some way cooler than normal. I think we're experiencing climate-related squealing right now, but it's not JUST manifesting as volatility in temperatures but also in other climate events. For example, Atlanta is suddenly getting flooding unlike any in 70 years. The flooding last year along the Mississippi delta was the worst in quite some time. Flooding in Brazil in the last year was just insane, with entire villages fleeing in neck-deep water with people fighting off anacondas while holding children above the water. Hurricanes of category 4+ have doubled in frequency in the last 40 years (not more hurricanes overall, just twice as many MAJOR ones). And then we have major droughts popping up all over to go along with the massive flooding. And we're seeing more serious fires (Greece, California, et al). And now this. ALL of this is, I suspect, climatological squealing, and it's a precursor to a major state change in our climate.

I don't want to be alarmist about climate change, but I am getting seriously worried that we're approaching the point (if we're not already there) where a major state change is inevitable, where the process is too far along and too self-sustaining for anything we do as a species to alter the trajectory significantly. And every time climatologists revise their models, it's always worse than they had previously estimated. The scary thing about that is, there's really nowhere to flee to for safety -- the problem is planetary, so unless you can escape the entire planet, it's going to affect you, and it's probably going to suck pretty bad.

And in a few weeks, or sooner, we'll begin tackling Cap and Trade, and the Republicans are going to throw out all kinds of insanity about how it costs too much to do anything about climate change. Um, what's a habitable planet worth these days, anyway? Because it seems to me that that is what's at stake, and us saving a few bucks while losing the habitability of our planet, that just doesn't seem like the best deal to me.
posted by jamstigator at 4:52 AM on September 23, 2009


I've seen this happen precisely twice in twenty years living in the South East of Queensland. Or, if you like, twice in 7 years.

Hmmm...by my calculations, the frequency is increasing exponentially. Good luck, Australia!
posted by inigo2 at 4:56 AM on September 23, 2009


Ha, I meant to say, the first time I ever saw this was about 7 years ago and I've lived in the area about 20 years. This is the second time. (Of course, the frequency might be increasing exponentially, but don't use me as a datapoint).
posted by b33j at 5:12 AM on September 23, 2009


Hi res satellite image. The cloud supposedly measured 3000klm by 200klm. Damn it was thick.
Turgid Dahlia described it perfectly
posted by Duke999R at 5:33 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flooding in Atlanta and now this!?! You know these things come in 3s right?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:42 AM on September 23, 2009


Flooding in Atlanta and now this!?! You know these things come in 3s right?

You know what else comes in 3s?
posted by jmd82 at 6:03 AM on September 23, 2009


It's OK National Party, nothing to see here, just climate change blowing several million tonnes of your topsoil away- if it keeps up you won't have anything left to bury your thick bumpkin heads in.
posted by mattoxic at 6:39 AM on September 23, 2009


Wow. To some degree, these bring me back. I remember only once or twice in my childhood growing up in rural Illinois we had dust storms. It was incredibly surreal to be outside and see a wall of dust coming from the edge of town. We lived half a block from the western edge where the cornfields started, which is where all the weather typically comes from (though if it was coming from the north or south it was virtually guaranteed there would be a tornado somewhere) and would watch the storms come in, and it was the same for the dust. Once your eyes started to dry out it was time to high-tail it to the house, and then the real front came.

It amazed and me to see the view of everything completely obliterated. Wall clouds in tornado season are impressive, but the dust storms took out everything on the horizon, visually. Ours were small, they'd last for less than an hour. But as a kid it always brought me back to the Dust Bowl days we'd talked about in class. Illinois is typically too far east for that sort of thing, but it's nice and flat so in drought years it's not hard to get small dust storms.

Nothing compared to any of this, of course. Crazy weather always excites me but lately it's been tempered with a bit of trepidation. tellurian's link gave me goosebumps because it was an amazing point of view, but I think in part also because towards the end of the video I could not stop thinking slow down slow down slow down!
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:46 AM on September 23, 2009


Jamstigator, For all intents... your fears and my fears run along common lines. It's nice to know that their is a term for it. "Squealing". It's so very fitting.

We keep making assumptions that all this great stuff that we've cooked up will keep us here or will remain with us. Slide rules being obsolete... until the power flickers off for the last time. Long division, written correspondence, and mechanical drawing and drafting... these are skills that require little if any artificial energy inputs... and some of the first that will be needed again when the power finally becomes unavailable to maintain our own complex societal systems... which have broken the necessary complex environmental systems...

Like I said before, the future we were collectively sold is a pack of lies.

it's much darker than even the worst of my fears...

Mega-corporations usurping National governments... phhlltt. Poppycock compared to what we will soon be facing... collectively and alone.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 7:01 AM on September 23, 2009


Also, you Aussies are a damn hardy lot. With what is coming... I'm glad there are several million people like you to watch our collective backs.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 7:03 AM on September 23, 2009


When the dust stops blowing and the sun comes out, what is the clean-up like? Do you sweep things up, hose things down, or get out the leaf blower? I suspect that a cleansing rain is out of the question.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2009


deadly snakes, sharks, spiders, jellyfish, crocodiles and drunks

Always after your lucky charms.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:10 AM on September 23, 2009


The Big Picture has some awesome duststorm pics too
posted by starzero at 8:42 AM on September 23, 2009


Midnight Skulker: Hosing things off is pretty much out of the question, since most of the eastern coast has been on water restrictions for years. Even though they've been lifted here in Brisbane, I suspect many would still consider hosing wastful. Leaf blowers are counterproductive, because all they do is get the dust back up into the atmosphere, where it will settle pretty much where it came from.

I figure windows will get washed, and then we'll just wait for our winter rains to wash off the rest.
posted by Jilder at 9:02 AM on September 23, 2009


"It's a big country. We'll take them in Melbourne, where it's currently clear blue sunny skies."

Sure, You have blue skies. You also still have the spiders that eat frogs too right?
posted by Mitheral at 9:15 AM on September 23, 2009


I had no idea Blade Runner was shot in Sydney during a dust storm.
posted by HumanComplex at 9:36 AM on September 23, 2009


The scary thing about that is, there's really nowhere to flee to for safety

I'm sticking with the mountains of Ecuador.

Is it time to go yet? I've been waiting a while.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:09 PM on September 23, 2009


I hear the dust isn't as big a problem as the hoop snakes that blow in with it. But at least the drop bears have all taken shelter.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:12 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Scary and beautiful
posted by stargell at 1:08 PM on September 23, 2009


Pleased these were posted. I had come to suspect a little photoshop in the pictures in the news, but apparently not when compared to my trustworth mefites
posted by A189Nut at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2009


It's great that these will get less common, since global warming is a myth, right?

Right?
posted by rodgerd at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2009


Hi res satellite image. The cloud supposedly measured 3000klm by 200klm.

And NBC Nightly News is reporting that it blew over 5 million tons of dust over Eastern Australia.
posted by ericb at 3:41 PM on September 23, 2009


Beautiful city,
Beautiful dust storm,
.
.
.
.
.
probably not so beautiful if you are there.

Mother exhibits her power and fear.
posted by caddis at 5:40 PM on September 23, 2009


dropped this - "Nature"

sheesh, that was bad
posted by caddis at 5:48 PM on September 23, 2009


*trembles before the wrath of Caddis's mother*
posted by Wolof at 12:51 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


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