What’s a weather story without a fun, seldom used meteorological term to throw around for a few days until thundersnow and bomb cyclones make us forget?
A haboob is a “violent and oppressive wind blowing in summer in Sudan and elsewhere, bringing sand from the desert,” according to the Oxford dictionary. It’s an Arabic term derived from a place where the word is not novel because sandstorms happen all the time.
But a relatively uncommon haboob blew furiously through Denver on Wednesday afternoon, painting the sky dirty orange with dust and leaves (and litter, according to the Reese’s wrapper that hit me in my face during my afternoon commute).
It’s been dry lately, so that’s one reason for all the dust, according to meteorologist Steve Glazier with WeatherNation. Another factor was a mean cold front — temperatures dropped 32 degrees in a couple of hours — crashing into Denver’s nice, warm air. The resulting pressure sent cold air downward that “kicked up” debris throughout the city, Glazier said.
“The cool, sinking air has this momentum that keeps on going,” he said. “It undercuts the warmer air and it’s more dense, so it just keeps going.”
Glazier said haboobs are more common in drier southwest cities like Albuquerque and Phoenix. Denver doesn’t get the haboob treatment very often.
“I’ve only been here a few years and that was the best one I’ve seen,” Glazier said.
Now, on Thursday morning, it’s snowing with almost three inches on the ground, according to Denverite’s meteorological tape measure.