The 23rd October, 2002 dust storm in eastern Australia: characteristics and meteorological conditions.
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The dust storm of 23 October 2002 covered most of eastern Australia and carried one of the largest recorded dust loads in Australia. In the 6 months leading up to the event, severe drought conditions in eastern Australia, plus above average maximum temperatures resulted in high potential evapo-transpiration rates, producing severe soil moisture deficits and reduced vegetation cover. Although increased wind speeds associated with a fast moving cold front were the meteorological driving force, these winds speeds were lower than those for the previously documented large dust storms. The dust storm was 2400 km long, up to 400 km across and 1.5-2.5 km in height. The plume area was estimated at 840,860 km2 and the dust load at 0900 h was 3.35-4.85 million tones (Mt). These dust load estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions, regarding visibility-dust concentration relationships, vertical dust concentration profiles and dust ceilings. The event is examined using meteorological records, remote sensing and air quality monitoring.