Thursday, February 23, 2017

Feb. 23, 2017 dust storm over the Chihuahuan Desert and beyond

An upper level low centered over the Great Basin
and associated cold front
brought high winds and low humidity to the border region today. High winds were felt across most of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northwestern Chihuahua. The NMED station at the Deming airport gusted to 44 mph, the El Paso airport reached 51 mph and the weather station at San Augustin Pass gusted to 81 mph. Dust was just starting to be detected around noon from the VIIRS sensor aboard the Suomi polar orbiting satellite.
By 2 pm mountain time the dust plumes were clearly visible from the VIIRS dust product and highlighted in bright pink. Multiple dust source areas can be identified across northwestern Chihuahua. You can also see a dust plume developing from the Willcox playa in southeastern Arizona in the image below.
There were numerous impacts reported from the media from both the high winds and limited visibility from the blowing dust. There was a media report of a trailer overturned on highway 60 in New Mexico. I was monitoring the dust over the Lordsburg playa on I-10 starting in the morning and noticed a lot of dust activity starting around noon mountain time using the app on my iPad. I grabbed multiple frames from the mile marker 11 camera between 12:05 to 12:46 pm MST and put them together in an animation below. You can see at the beginning of the animation practically zero visibility and clearing up a few minutes later. Apparently an accident occurred at the start of the sequence and can see trucks parked on the left side of the image.

The mile marker 12 camera also shows the dust from the playa a mile to the east of the above animation.
You can see the line of traffic as the road was closed for a while in the above animation. As I mentioned earlier the event covered the whole region and into the southern Great Plains. I grabbed the GOES aerosol optical depth product from the Idea website and shows the extent of the dust today. Dense dust shows up in the warmer colors and thinner dust optical depth as light blue to turquiose.

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