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More dust storms forecast for outback Qld

By Chrissy Arthur, Friday October 18, 2013 - 13:00 EDT
Audience submitted image
Dust storm at Noonbah, south-west of Longreach in October 2013 - Audience submitted

As drought tightens its grip in Queensland's west, a research program is ramping up its monitoring of dust storm activity and predicting a more active season.

DustWatch is a community-based program to monitor wind erosion across Australia.

Northern coordinator, Dr Craig Strong from the Griffith University, says there have been 15 localised dust events recorded at Birdsville in far south-west Queensland in the past month, with the conditions conducive for more dust storms.

"All the signs are pointing in that direction," he said.

"The fact that the rainfall outlook is not all that good and the fact that the vegetation is dying off quite rapidly.

"The wind systems are still moving across that part of the country and historically there are events or accounts of very big dust storms even coming through in December."

He says sediment that has been deposited by flooding in Lake Eyre in recent years is also starting to break down and the drought has meant the landscape is bare.

"Once you get these big fronts moving across these freshly available dust sources - whether it is through the lake systems or the Simpson Desert where there has been fire scars, or in the rangelands where the vegetation has just been dying out very quickly - we start to have the capacity for these very big dust storms to pick up large areas of sediment," he said.

Birdsville resident Lyn Rowlands says while it has been a nuisance, the storms have been nothing like the 1950s and 1960s.

"I know the evaporative air-conditioning - it pressurises your house and it stops a lot of the dust from coming in," she said.

She says only rain will ease the dusty outlook.


© ABC 2013

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