Windstorm Strips Topsoil from Montana Fields
CUTBANK, MONTANA-- A blinding dust storm with 77 mph winds stripped topsoil from local fields, flattened a 65 foot-high grain bin and knocked down power poles, leaving more than 1,200 customers temporarily without power.
Years of continous drought have reduced soil moisture, so the dry, loose topsoil was easily picked up by the wind. The wind picked up rocks with the topsoil, leaving behind soft, sandy soil while removing the nutrients needed to grow healthy crops.
County sheriff's deputies John Evans and Vernon Billedeaux were on patrol when the dust storm hit its peak. The dust was so thick that they couldn't see beyond the hood of their pickup. Some of the topsoil was deposited in the form of dunes behind windbreaks, as shown in this photo, used with permission of the Great Falls Tribune.
Although the drought and the wind are natural phenomena, the poorly managed fields are not. Turning up the earth to plant crops left the soil vulnerable to the natural forces. Now much of the best soil is gone and the region is one step closer to desertification.
Jennifer Perez. "Region Picks up pieces". Great Falls Tribune. Tuesday, April 16, 2002.
African Desertification Kills Caribbean Coral Reefs
FLORIDA-- Florida's coral reefs are under attack from disease, and researcher Eugene Shinn of the U.S. Geological Survey believes the source of the problem is fungal spores and bacterial cysts riding dust storms over from Africa. A soil fungus is known to be the cause of one epidemic that wiped out the sea fan population across the Caribbean.
The volume of dust blowing east across the Atlantic has increased dramatically over the last twenty-five years, up to several hundred million tons per year. The causes of the problem are cited as "drought", "deforestation" and "desertification", but it is evident from the article in Discover magazine that no one involved has any idea that the real source of the problem was disrupting the natural predator-prey cycle of the African herd animals. For more information on the predator-prey connection, be sure to read the article The American Sahara
Sara Pratt. "Death by Dust Storm". Discover. January 2001. Page 17.