How a sandstorm forms and how long it lasts

One of the most common atmospheric phenomena in deserts, as well as the most dangerous, are sandstorms. Sand storms, dust storms or dust storms are meteorological phenomena characterized by very strong winds loaded with dust and sand that, on occasions, can completely impede vision. This forces you to have to take shelter and wait for it to happen to be able to continue with daily life. In addition, these sandstorms can have a very important impact thousands of kilometers away, since the suspended particles travel through the atmosphere and end up being deposited in areas that have nothing to do with the origin of this solid sediment.

How a sandstorm forms

In order for a sandstorm to form, obviously, the first thing that is needed is a considerable amount of sand. In addition, it is also necessary that this sand is dry enough so that it can be lifted and held in suspension in the atmosphere by the wind. Because of this, sandstorms are a characteristic phenomenon of deserts . Some of the most important examples are found in the Sahara desert, in the Gobi desert, or in the steppes of North America.

However, for a sandstorm to form it is also necessary that a series of very specific climatic conditions exist beyond the simple presence of large amounts of dry sand. In this sense, it is necessary that strong winds develop and that, in addition, these types of winds are ascension winds . This phenomenon is very common in certain regions after several days of intense heat. So, if there are strong winds, the most common is that they are upward winds and, consequently, the sandstorm forms, carrying with it a large amount of sand and dust that is carried up to high layers of the atmosphere, where it remains until cool enough to fall.

You cannot establish a specific time for a phenomenon of these characteristics. The most common is that they have an approximate duration that can range from a few hours to several days . However, there are documented cases in which sandstorms have been able to extend beyond several days, even reaching sandstorms of more than a week.

On the other hand, it should also be mentioned that, although the sandstorms that are best known are those of our planet, it is a phenomenon that also manifests itself on other planets , such as Mars. In the case of sandstorms on Mars, these are phenomena that can last several weeks, as space probes sent by organizations such as NASA or ESA have been able to observe. In fact, in the case of the red planet, sand storms have been observed that have enveloped practically the entire surface of the planet.

In the event that we are in the desert and a sandstorm arises, there are a series of recommendations that we must follow if we want to survive this natural but extremely dangerous phenomenon.

In the event that we can, the first thing we should do is take shelter , either inside a building, a car or any other space that can protect us from the storm. In the event that we cannot, we must find the safest place to be sheltered from the sandstorm (for example, on the side of a rock opposite to the direction of the wind). Likewise, it is essential to properly protect both the body and the most sensitive parts of the body to dust and sand. To do this, we must cover our body with fabric as much as we can , both the hands and the head as well as the rest of the body parts.

In addition, it is essential that we use a cloth or cloth to protect the nose and mouth , so that we can continue to breathe but without swallowing the dust and sand from the storm. Finally, we will also have to protect our eyes, preferably with glasses that cover as much as possible the surface of the eyes and the surrounding area, and that do not allow the passage of sand inside. If we do not have these glasses, we can cover the entire head with a cloth to prevent sand from entering the eyes.

Finally, one of the aspects that we will have to take into account is that we should not advance or try to walk in the sandstorm. On the contrary, we will have to look for the best shelter we can find and in the fastest way, where we will wait for the storm to pass before leaving the safe zone.

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