Monsoon Special 2012: When is a dust storm called a haboob?

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by Meteorologist Royal Norman

Bio | Email | Follow: @RoyalNorman

azfamily.com

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 7:22 PM

PHOENIX -- More than 40 years ago, some pictures appeared in several meteorological journals. It was the first time that the term "haboob" was used to describe an Arizona dust storm.
 
Dr. Sherwood Idso has become known as the father of the Arizona Haboob -- Papa Haboob, if you will.

These scientific articles were collecting dust. The term "haboob" was pretty much dormant. But then came July 5 of last year. The Great Dust Storm of 2011, when "haboob" went mainstream instantly.

Everywhere you turned on the TV you heard someone talking about our big dust storm.

If you want, blame it on cable news. At times, it seemed people were more interested with the term "haboob" than what was actually happening in Arizona.

Randy Cerveny, a senior meteorologist at Arizona State University, said from almost the moment the dust storm hit, he started getting phone calls literally from around the world. He was even asked if the Phoenix metro area was getting wiped off the map by the impressive storm. He said last year's Great Dust Storm is properly called a haboob.

Does this mean every dust storm is a haboob? Cerveny says no. Haboobs are a subset of dust storms. In fact, Cerveny estimates that a vast majority of our dust storms in Arizona are not haboobs.

So, we learned that haboobs are subsets of dust storms and Idso has made a little bit of weather history. Cerveny said he really is the person who brought “haboob” to Arizona.

Also, the co-author of the original haboob articles with Idso was Robert Ingram of the Phoenix Weather Service Office. Ingram is credited with utilizing the word "monsoon" to describe our summer thunderstorms.
 

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