The American West might be in for another Dust Bowl as massive dust storms are on the rise, according to a study out of Aeolian Research. While the area is known for its often dusty visage—think all the Westerns you've ever seen—drought and high winds are causing more storms than usual, and that's only half the problem. "The other half [of storms are] unexplained," one study author tells National Geographic, pointing to "off-road vehicle use, oil and gas development, urban and rural development, and grazing" as possible causes.
The study saw calcium deposits increase at 116 of 175 sites from across the country over 17 years, and after ruling out forest fires, industrial emissions, and ocean spray, the team found dust was to blame. Deposits especially grew in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, reports LiveScience. But blowing dust isn't the only worry. Faster snowmelt, respiratory issues, and reduced visibility are just some negative side effects, though surprisingly, there are benefits, too: Dust storms help nourish high-altitude areas and cancel out the effects of acid rain. (Read more dust storm stories.)