Harmattan and Haboobs

The word “haboob”, of Sudanese origin, means a violent dust storm. In recent years, with little apparent success, local media has attempted to rebrand Arizona dust storms as haboobs.

As a child growing up in Phoenix, I was enthralled with dust storms, which were usually the harbingers of our summer monsoon season. I loved how the sky turned a golden orange color and how the hot sandy wind, scented with rain and sage, swirled into our neighborhood. Exuberant children ran and danced outdoors exulting in the change of weather. The perfect dust storm would culminate with a booming stupendous thunderstorm and hopefully brought rain to our thirsty desert city.

Years later, when I lived in south Florida and worked in Everglades National Park, I was surprised when our usually pristine winter skies turned silty and tan with dust that drifted west all the way from Africa. These intruding sandstorms were transported by high level winds from the Sahara.

Recently, when I lived in Abuja, Nigeria, I experienced Harmattan, which is a season in West Africa spanning the end of November to the beginning of March. Blowing in from the Sahara Desert, the atmosphere is hazy with silty sand.  Some days the haze is so thick that the airport has to be shut down. Harmattan is one of two seasons in Nigeria. The other season is warmer, wet and rainy.

I thought about this a few days ago in Phoenix. That evening when the sky turned a strange golden hue, my husband and I witnessed the approach of a huge dust storm which encompassed our neighborhood with all the drama and exuberance that I remember from childhood.

The attached images were edited with Snapseed, Prisma, ToonCamera and Tangled FX.

Rainy Season Approaches Abuja
Rainy Season Approaches Abuja
Harmattan in Abuja
Harmattan in Abuja
Phoenix Dust storm
Phoenix Dust storm
Phoenix Thunderstorm
Phoenix Thunderstorm

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