A huge outback dust storm – 500 km (310 mi) wide by 1,000 km (620 mi) long – swept across eastern Australia and blanketed Sydney on Wednesday, September 23rd, disrupting flights and ground transportation and forcing people indoors for shelter from the hazardous air, gale-force winds, and in some places hailstorms.
The dust storm Wednesday had shrouded Sydney and surrounding areas for about eight hours, blotting out landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge and even reaching underground to coat subway stations.
The haze, churned by powerful winds that lifted thousands of tons of topsoil from the arid and drought-stricken inland, was visible from space, appearing as a huge brown smudge in satellite photographs of Australia.
As it cleared away from Sydney on Wednesday afternoon, the dust moved north along the heavily populated eastern coastal area clogging skies over the Queensland state capital of Brisbane.
The main image shows dust off the coast of Queensland, partially veiling the Great Barrier Reef offshore. Several wildfires can also be seen along the coastline towards the center left. The second image shows the dust arching eastward, over to New Zealand, which is hidden below the clouds on the right side of the image.