In late 1982 and early 1983, the El Niño weather cycle brought record drought to almost all of eastern Australia, with Victoria's Mallee and northern Wimmera severely affected. The Bureau of Meteorology describes the resulting dust storm of 1983: During the morning of Tuesday 8 February 1983, a strong but dry cold front began to cross Victoria, preceded by hot, gusty northerly winds. The loose topsoil in the Mallee and Wimmera was picked up by the wind and collected into a huge cloud of dust that heralded the cool change. Fed by the strong northerly, the temperature in Melbourne rose quickly and at 2:35pm, a dramatic red-brown cloud could be seen approaching the city. The dust storm hit Melbourne just before 3:00pm, accompanied by a rapid drop in temperature and a fierce wind change that uprooted trees and damaged houses. Within minutes, visibility in the capital had plunged to 100 metres. City workers huddled in doorways, covering their mouths from the choking dust, and traffic came to a standstill. The worst of the storm was over by 4:00pm, when the wind speed dropped. The dust cloud was approximately 320 metres high when it struck Melbourne, but in other areas of Victoria it extended thousands of metres into the atmosphere.
Approaching dust storm in the Mallee, 1983
Black and white photo, 1983,
Collection of Birchip Historical Society
Birchip History Museum
This photograph can only be used for research purposes and must not be reproduced, copied or published in any form without the permission of Birchip Historical Society.
Birchip Historical Society