Q: You often hear of “the Dust Bowl.” Exactly what was it?
A: It was the worst and most severe combination of drought and wind erosion that has ever occurred in the U.S., says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University.
The Dust Bowl started in the early 1930s and lasted almost the entire decade and hit the Great Plains states the hardest.
“The Dust Bowl stretched 400 miles north and about 300 miles to the east and west,” says McRoberts, “and covered large parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.”
The cost of the drought in 1934 alone amounted to one-half of the U.S. costs in World War I, and by 1936, farm losses had reached $25 million per day, and more than 2 million farmers were drawing relief checks.
The worst probably hit on April 17, 1935 when a 200-mile wide storm produced a black dust cloud that reached more than 1,000 feet into the air blowing at 60 miles per hour. The dust was so bad that some towns in Kansas were in total darkness for three hours.
Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.