Over the last week, a series of haboob dust storms have swept over cities in the interior of São Paulo state. Caused by high winds and rain that kick up vast quantities of dust from dry ground, haboobs consist of a “wall” of sediment that precedes storm clouds.
The first instances of the latest wave of dust storms came in the extreme north and northwest of São Paulo state, but a haboob recorded in the city of Catanduva on Sunday afternoon suggests the phenomenon may be moving closer to more densely populated parts of the state. No one was hurt in Sunday’s storm, but recent haboobs in Santo Antônio de Aracanguá and Tupã left four people dead.
Thanks to an underwhelming rainy season at the beginning of the year, many parts of Southeast Brazil have been left dangerously dry, leaving them more susceptible to dust storms. This phenomenon is reflected in Brazil’s ongoing energy crisis, as major hydroelectric dams in the region have sunk to very low levels, affecting the country’s electricity production.
Meteorologists say that further haboobs are possible between now and the end of the year, principally in flatlands of the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Goiás, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul.