Haboob Rolls Through Phoenix: What’s All the Hubbub?

  • Jul 06, 2018

Haboob in Phoenix

Our network of weather cameras caught a haboob moving through Phoenix on Thursday, July 5, 2018. The time-lapse shows the dust approaching and rolling through the Valley of the Sun. This particular camera is located at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix.

What is a Haboob?

Although it sounds funny, a haboob is a meteorological term. A haboob is a type of dust storm that happens thanks to a thunderstorm’s downdraft. These dust storms are intense and typically happen in dry land area regions.

During thunderstorm formation,winds move in a direction opposite to the storm’s travel. Then they move from all directions into the thunderstorm. When it starts to rain, wind directions reverse and start gusting outward from the storm. These can turn into haboobs. Haboobs can also form when a strong thunderstorm weakens rapidly and releases a microburst.

When the cold downburst reaches the ground it blows silt and clay into a wall of sediment that precedes the storm cloud. This wall of dust can be up to 62 miles wide and several miles in elevation.

At their strongest, haboob winds can travel at 22-62 mph. A lot of times, haboobs come with no warning. However, our total lightning detection network generates specific warnings that help predict microbursts and haboobs. These are called Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts.

Haboobs can cause eye and respiratory system problems as well as blow heavier debris around. We highly recommend that people outdoors seek shelter in the case of a haboob.

Haboob Geography

The word “haboob” comes from the Arabic word for “blasting/drifting.” They occur frequently all over the world, but especially in the Middle East. Haboobs are common in the Sahara desert, across the Arabian Peninsula, and throughout Kuwait.

Haboobs are also common in North Africa. Northward summer shifts of the inter-tropical front bring moisture from the Gulf of Guinea and create haboobs. In Australia, haboobs are frequently associated with cold fronts. Central Australia‘s deserts see plenty of haboobs, with sand and debris reaching several miles into the sky and leaving up to a foot of sand in its path. In North America, haboobs occur in places like Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas.