Sandstorms and Car Art

A major perk of washing the dishes, cooking, or cleaning is staring out the window, watching the activity on the street below or in the apartments across the way. In fact, I’d say that’s where the majority of my attention is directed when I’m in the kitchen.

The scene is generally uneventful – the old lady watering her window plants, the young parents taking care of the baby, and the guy who is always sitting in a corner chair with a clipboard  engaged in conversation (my bet is that he runs a counseling office). There are some occasional surprises — like a Wii Sports party or an entire class of ten-year-olds walking down the street — and Daniel especially enjoys watching the church-goers on Sunday mornings as the families walk together in their nice clothes.

After yesterday’s rain subsided, I noticed that the cars looked like they were covered in a light dusting of snow, or maybe dirt. When I saw my neighbor she asked me what happened. We joked that maybe it had just rained dirt since we couldn’t come up with any better explanation.

Apparently it rained dirt (well, minerals from Saharan sand), and this isn’t especially uncommon.

“Data and/or images from the BSC-DREAM8b (Dust REgional Atmospheric Model) model, operated by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (”

There doesn’t seem to be a name for this phenomenon, so I’ll just call it dust redistribution: Wind storms and disparate atmospheric temperatures in the Saharan Desert stir up the sand, which can be carried more than 3.5 miles into the atmosphere. Winds can then blow the sandy air as far West as the Caribbean Islands and Florida or across the Mediterranean and sometimes into Northern Europe, making wet or dry deposits along the way. Minerals in the dust are important for delivering nutrients to aquatic life, but the dust can also contain harmful fungi.

Back in Munich, we were just left with dirty cars and bicycles, vague news reports, and inquisitive pedestrians, but some people made the most of it. The empty canvases brought out…

Barcelona Supercomputing Center’s DREAM project, a dust forecasting system
Wikipedia on mineral dust
Wikipedia on the Saharan Air Layer
Where is the dust now?



  1. Leslie vermazani

    I wonder if it was just one person who did all the “car art” or if there were several culprits? I’d be really angry if I came out and found someone “arting” on my car!

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