Waking Up On Mars: Australia's Bizarre Dust Storm

I woke up Wednesday (Tuesday U.S. time), to a scene from Total Recall. Sydney had been blanketed by an apocalyptic glowing red dust storm. Red from iron-oxide: rust. And if I couldn't breathe, my tech gear wouldn't like this either…

But I did what any geek would do. I regressed into an excited 10 year old, grabbed the camera, and went out to play in the freakish weather. After 5 minutes of constantly clearing my throat, and noticing that my G9 had started to collect dust, I decided it just wasn't worth it. Having been asleep with a window open meant a little dust was also inside. I switched off my main desktop (it's got a big air-intake fan), and fired up a laptop to find out what the hell was going on.

Big winds had swept the dust from Australia's drought-stricken interior, carrying it hundreds of miles to the east coast. Sydney (with a population of 4.3 million) was most affected, but other cities were, too. In terms of air pollution, particle concentration reached a thickness of about 15,000 micrograms per cubic meter—a normal day here has about 10-20.

Comedian Arj Barker (from Flight of the Conchords) Tweeted this pic: "It's like Dune here in Sydney. This is the giant dust storm we had to land in."

Waking Up On Mars: Australia's Bizarre Dust Storm

Until winds swept the dust to sea mid-afternoon, flights were canceled, Twitter went crazy, MMS traffic spiked 50 percent, and data centers installed air filters…it was interesting to watch how technology intersected with the bizarre weather.

The dust cloud was the worst in 70 years, and it's still unclear if climate change was to blame. But at the very least, I got a dusty taste of life on Mars for the day (well, sort of). [Sydney Morning Herald]

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