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Dust Storms of 2012

Updated: 8 am 20 September 2012

As the 2012 Monsoon comes to a close, we take a look back at the notable Dust Storms from the summer. Dust storms have gained more attention and seem to have larger areas of impact than some may think. The fact that the areal coverage, distance traveled and intensity can hold together for such a long amount of time is incredible. So, how does the 2012 Monsoon look for Dust Storms?

Incorporating warnings issued throughout 2012 as a whole, not just during the Monsoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) as an office issued 17 Dust Storm warnings (as of September 10). This spans our entire County Warning Area (CWA) including Southeast California. When a Dust Storm Warning is issued, criteria of 1/4 mile visibility or less is required. Spotter reports from the public, law enforcement and trained spotters greatly help to verify ground truth of visibility during severe weather events, and at times, is the only way to know how low the visibility is. The number of local storm reports (LSR) received for 2012 for dust storm criteria (visibility of 1/4 mile or less) so far has been 60. The correlation between how severe a dust storm is compared with how many reports and the lowest visibility in a report is hard to connect. Some events that span a large area, both in areal coverage of a warning and the area that the dust travels, may only have a few LSR's associated with them. On the other hand, some short lived dust storms, both in time duration and areal coverage may have numerous reports associated with it. To classify the biggest, longest time duration, and largest areal coverage for dust storms is tough, and subjective.

During 2012, 17 Dust Storm Warnings were issued, with 16 days that dust storms reported were reported, across the entire CWA. 14 of those days occurred during the Monsoon. Defining one dust storm from another is tricky, especially if the same dust storm impacts multiple areas. Individual days that had dust storms reported were as follows (including non-Monsoon days): Feb 27, May 9, Jun 16, Jun 27, Jul 21 (two on this day), Jul 22, Jul 23, Jul 28, Jul 29, Jul 31, Aug 5, Aug 11, Aug 13, Sep 2, Sep 6, Sep 9.

2012 Dust Stats
Parameter Location
Pinal Co. PHX Metro/South PHX & East Valley West Valley Yuma/Southeast California
Number of days with Dust Storms 9 days 9 days 5 days 2 days
Dates of Dust Storms (including non-Monsoon) (May 9) Jun 16, Jun 27, Jul 21, Jul 22, Jul 31, Aug 11, Sep 2, Sep 6 (Feb 27, May 9) Jun 16, Jun 27, Jul 21, Jul 23, Aug 5, Aug 11, Sep 6 Jun 16, Jul 28, Jul 29, Sep 6, Sep 9 Jul 21, Aug 13

Click each image for a larger view
29July2012 Bryan Snider
8 Aug 2012 Mike Olbinski
5 July 2011 NWS
29 July 2012 Dust Storm hits Sky Harbor Airport. Photo Credit: Bryan Snider
8 August 2012 Dust Storm. Photo Credit: Mike Olbinski
5 July 2011 Dust Storm as seen from NWS Phoenix Office

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