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Australian dust storm arrives in New Zealand

Agence France-Presse

September 25, 2009 04:42pm

PARTICLES from the dust storm that engulfed parts of eastern Australia this week were detected 2150 kilometres away across the Tasman Sea today, raining down on New Zealand.

Meteorologist Philip Duncan of the WeatherWatch website said orange dust falls had been reported in the North Island districts of Auckland, Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki.

Weather forecasters had tracked the dust storm in satellite images as it crossed the Tasman riding on a swirling low pressure system that brought bad weather to most of New Zealand.

It was clearly visible where it landed, particularly on car windows.

"It arrived yesterday afternoon but was caught up in the rain and cloud associated with the front. Now that the skies are clearing it's quite evident," he said.

A Taranaki resident told the website the dust was so thick at the school where he worked it would not wash away in heavy showers.

"We have flat roofs on the buildings that are normally silver but this morning they were covered in a burnt orange very fine silt that accumulated to approx two millimetres in places with the run off from the rain."

Tadhg O'Loingsigh, from the school of geography at Monash University in Melbourne Australia, said his team hoped to "fingerprint" the dust by analysing its minerals.

"If we can fingerprint it, we can trace where it came from," he said.

Although it is not unusual for smoke particles to cross the Tasman, meteorologists said the arrival of Australian dust was a rare occurrence.

At its peak in Sydney on Wednesday, flights were diverted away from Sydney airport and health authorities warned residents across the state to stay indoors as air particle pollution was hundreds of times higher than normal. 

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