Electric fields lift dust into the air at massive scales

During the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, black blizzards of dust enveloped the Great Plains, destroying crops. When farmers heard a crackling sound over the radio, they often knew a dust storm was coming, as such storms carry an electric field that can disrupt electronic equipment. Scientists have known since the 1800s that these fields exist, but how they might affect the swirling dust around them has not been understood. In airborne dust over the Sahara Desert, scientists have now directly measured these electric fields for the first time and found that, if strong enough, the fields can lift vast amounts of dust into the air.

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Lucas Joel

Lucas Joel was EARTH's 2015 summer intern.

Joel was EARTH’s 2015 summer science writing intern and is now a freelance science writer. He has a master's in paleontology from the University of California, Riverside. Based out of Ann Arbor, Mich., he ventures often to the sandstone cliffs of Kentucky’s Red River Gorge and dreams of hiking up Mont Blanc in the French Alps. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 06:00

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