Texas Tech University

Atmospheric Science Researcher Studies Health Effects of Dust Storms

By: Glenys Young 

Karin Ardon-Dryer has always loved dust storms.

Yes, you read that right. Those enormous, brown-out-the-sky, grind-the-city-to-a-halt storms fascinate her.

"One event that really influenced my life and pushed me toward the atmospheric science field was the Israeli scientific experiment done on board NASA's space shuttle Columbia on its last flight," Ardon-Dryer said. "I was fascinated by the fact that they tracked dust storms from space."

Born and raised in Israel, she felt an additional connection to the scientists involved. Several years later, she reached out to Professor Zev Levin, one of the designers of the Columbia dust storm project, and wound up working with him for her doctorate. She came full circle, she says, when she moved 7,000 miles away to Lubbock, which has both frequent dust storms and a strong connection to the Columbia.

For Ardon-Dryer, now an assistant professor of atmospheric science at Texas Tech University, one aspect of her research focuses on the health aspects of atmospheric particles, which are always in the air but are so small they can't be seen most of the time. They only become apparent when numerous particles are in the same place at the same time, like during a dust storm.

Using a special measurement station on campus, Ardon-Dryer's team samples and monitors the air constantly, but every so often, they're able to get data and samples from a big event, like last June's haboob.

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