The beginning of the monsoon season comes with another weather phenomenon: dust storms.
Also known as “haboobs,” dust storms are caused by a number of factors associated with large-scale weather, such as thunderstorms and rain.
For Tucson, the monsoon weather this summer will be about average, said Glen Sampson, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service.
Scientists can look at factors, such as land temperature and surface conditions, to determine what the upcoming monsoon season will be like. Temperatures indicate that this year's season will be similar to last year's monsoons. Precipitation will be at about six inches, Sampson said.
Strong winds across the state can pick up dust, which moderately affect visibility, said William Sprigg, research professor at the University of Arizona Institute of Atmospheric Physics.
However, when strong winds are accompanied by thunderstorms, they can hit a patch of dry land, pick up dust, and create dangerously low visibility. Sampson said these storms are most noticeable across Interstate 10, between Tucson and Phoenix, where visibility can drop to zero.
The combined use of NASA satellites, and numerical dynamical weather models could predict the monsoon and dust seasons, Sprigg said.
His department at the UA was able to model and foretell the, highly-publicized, July 2011 “haboob." Such storm was about a mile high, 100 miles in length, and some 30 miles deep, Sprigg said.
Sprigg applies these same tools to come up with the simulation, or forecast, for each summer, which has been a successful method so far.
Dust storms are not only a danger to traffic, but also to people’s health, Sprigg said. Dust increases susceptibility to asthma, cardiovascular problems, and respiratory diseases due to the bacteria and viruses it carries.
And, particularly in Arizona, Sprigg said inhaling dust can be very hazardous because of the valley fever spores it, potentially, carries.
Ashley Grove is a journalism student and an intern for Arizona Public Media