It’s been a big season when it comes to haboobs — towering dust storms that form from the exhaust of thunderstorms — in Arizona. Another massive one tore across southern parts of the state Thursday. It was the third major dust event of the monsoon season in the Phoenix region.
Like a notable haboob July 9, Thursday’s was a daytime spectacle. Imagery of towering dust enveloping the landscape flew across social media, as typical when something wild happens. Even if you’ve seen your fair share of haboob imagery, this one was memorable.
Haboob is a fancy term — stolen from Arabic — for a giant dust storm. They are common in the desert Southwest during the North American monsoon season, which focuses on July and August and brings almost daily thunderstorms to the region. Haboobs are formed by winds rushing outward from thunderstorms. They can travel hundreds of miles, wreaking havoc, churning up dust and shrouding the sun in their path.
It’s not uncommon for several haboobs to form in the same season, according to Ken Waters, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Phoenix. “Typically every monsoon season we have two to three super active days, and last night was probably the third one now so far this season,” he said. “The challenge is keeping up with the fast-developing downbursts, and we had several last night.”
With significant drought continuing across much of Arizona, Beamish expects there may be more haboobs to come. “The prime haboob zones (Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix and Interstate 8 west of Casa Grande) need about five to eight inches of monsoon rain to reduce drought to moderate levels over the next two months,” he said.
Waters, of the Weather Service, agrees that there are more storms to come, which is good news despite the occasional dust, since the region desperately needs the rain during its monsoon season. “All indications are we are anticipating more of the same, with the 10 to 14 day outlook calling for higher-than-normal chances of precipitation,” Waters said.