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Dust storm covers Sydney in red

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TIM WIMBORNE/REUTERS

(Read caption) A dust storm blankets Sydney's iconic Opera House at sunrise on Wednesday. A huge outback dust storm swept eastern Australia and blanketed Sydney disrupting transport, forcing people indoors and stripping thousands of tonnes of valuable farmland topsoil.

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The massive dust storm that turned Sydney an eerie red Wednesday has swept up Australia’s eastern coast to Brisbane, leaving Sydney residents to breath easier after the worst air pollution on record was recorded Wednesday.

But Australians are left wondering if such dust storms will become more common – and whether climate change is to blame.

The current storm, the biggest in 70 years, dumped thousands of tons of dust on Sydney. It reduced visibility, forced international flights to be diverted, and interrupted ferry traffic. It was caused when the powerful winds of an inland storm picked up topsoil from land parched after years of harsh drought, carrying it to the large cities on the coast.

Check out the Monitor's photo gallery of the storm in Sydney.

The Herald reports that it stretched 600 km (370 miles) along the coast of New South Wales Wednesday and dumped 75,000 tons of dust per hour into the Tasman Sea.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that the particle pollution in Sydney from this storm was "10 times the worst on record." The city has not seen a comparable storm since the 1940s.

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