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Natural Resources Defense Council

What the heck is going on here?

The video appears to have first hit YouTube in early November and has been making its rounds on social media. There have been a lot of guesses as to what it is, ranging from a flowing sand dune to a river of quicksand.

The answer? Hail.

When you get enough of it, it can flow like a river, picking up loose dirt or sand along the way. It happened in Colorado a few years ago and in the Texas Panhandle in 2012.


The one slushy you don't want to drink. GIF from ABC 7 Amarillo/YouTube.

What the "hail" is going on in the desert?

Heavy winter weather has been happening to the entire region for the past few weeks. Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia — pretty much everyone's been hit. And these storms have been packing an unusually strong wallop.

For instance, in late October, Baghdad was deluged with a whole month's worth of rain in a single day, according to an Al-Jazeera report.

And that much rain means flooding. Even the driest ground can only absorb so much water at a time, making creek beds, lakes, and low-lying areas swell with excess water. And if the rain happens fast enough, it can even turn into a flash flood.

“Flash floods are the most dangerous kind of floods, because they combine the destructive power of a flood with incredible speed and unpredictability," says the National Severe Storms Laboratory. “They can happen with little or no warning."




If you're thinking you can just power through it, think again. NOAA's flood safety site reminds people that it only takes a few inches of moving water to knock someone down and only a foot to start washing away cars!

All across the Middle East, dry river beds have become torrents, streets have become rivers, and refugee camps have been turned into swamps.

A lot of people have been hurt — some have died. 12 Saudi Arabians have been killed in the last few days alone.

Scientists predict these types of storms might become the new order of things.

Climate change is expected to knock extreme weather up a notch — droughts will become droughtier, floods will become floodier, and storms will become stormier.

A 2012 study from MIT, for instance, predicted that because of climate change, what we call a "storm of the century" hurricane could start happening every three to 20 years. That could mean a Hurricane Sandy or Typhoon Haiyan once a decade instead of once a lifetime. Other studies have found the same pattern in droughts, heat waves, and winter storms as well.

This is the kind of evidence people need to see.

There's still a lot we can do right now to help limit and prepare for these kinds of changes, but it starts with people understanding that this isn't just about the thermometer. It's about people's lives too.

This petition from the NRDC urges our world leaders to take action at the upcoming Paris Climate Talks — check it out to demand action!

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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