Haboob or sandstorm? And what is it!?

Photo: A haboob in Arizon, USA back in July 2012. SourceFlickr, Kayley Markley

On Sunday 29th May, Lubbock airport in Texas, posted on their official Facebook page "A haboob is rapidly approaching the Lubbock airport and may affect the city as well,". However the use of the word has created it's own storm, with some Texans confused at the use of the word, expressing their dismay acorss social media.  

The haboob tracked across northwestern Texas during early evening on Sunday 29th May, with the dust stirred up as a result of rain-cooled outflow from thunderstorms in the area. As the haboob went through, the temperature suddenly dropped from 27C at 19:03 to 17C just seven minutes later. 

But what is a 'haboob'? A haboob is the name for a dust or sandstorm in the northern part of the Sudan, most commonly observed between May and September in the afternoon and evening. The name is derived from the Arabian word ‘habb’ meaning ‘to blow’. The word has been used by the meterolgocial commnuty for almost 100 years; back in 1925, a paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society was titled “Haboobs.”

Although the word originates from Arabic to describe the sandstorms in northern Sudan, the term is now commonly used to describe any wind-driven sandstorm or duststorm in arid or semi-arid regions around the world. Haboobs been spotted worldwide, including central Australia, and parts of America from the northwest corner of Mexico and the state of Arizona to the edge of the Great Plains.