Crazy dust storm covers Sydney in red haze

Residents and tourists in Sydney, Australia, might be feeling as though they been transported to Mars, and in fact, a glance around at the city covered in red dust against a red-orange sky does bring to mind images of what a colony on the red planet would look like. Despite its other-worldly appearance, the haze that converged on Sydney yesterday is earth-bound, composed of red dust from the Outback.

Australia has been suffering one of the worst periods of drought since the 1940’s and an eight-year dry spell and record high temperatures have combined to create the country’s worst dust storms in 70 years. The storms normally only affect the interior of the country, but this time, they’ve covered Sydney as well, all but shutting down the airport and halting the service of passenger ferries for several hours.

According to The Age, air quality in Sydney was reported as 40 times worse than the level regarded as “poor” and 20 times the “hazardous” level. People are being advised not to go outside, especially if they have respiratory problems, and to take care when driving in the poor visibility. Officials said they had received over 250 calls from people reporting breathing problems as a result of the thousands of tons of dust in the air.

The storms were visible on radar and their effects were felt as far away as New Zealand, 1400 miles away.

For more amazing images of the dust storm, click here.

Beijing to Ban Traffic in August

In response to the high levels of pollution in Beijing, China, the International Olympic Committee is beginning to worry about the health of Olympic fans and athletes alike. To determine whether or not to completely ban private cars in the city as way to decrease the pollution, the committee will do a two-week, car-free trial run in August. If the two weeks sans cars significantly reduces pollution in the city, private car traffic will be completely banned in Beijing during the Olympics of 2008.

With almost 15-million people living in Beijing and the surrounding municipality, this seems completely crazy. How can a city continue to operate when all private cars are banned? Sure, Beijing has some decent mass transit, and many, many people travel by bike, but still. If the trial run shows a significant decrease in pollution, that means there are still a ton of people relying on private cars to get around.

Thanks to our sister site, Autoblog Green, for the tip!