I’m writing a novel that takes place well in the future. In this future, planet Earth has somewhere along the way experienced an environmental disaster:
All the world was a grainy smear, gray and brown and indistinct, and strangely alive looking. In silence, it seemed almost to shimmer with a protean quality in putrid shades of dull, lifeless, earthy color. Only gradually did some sense of shapes begin to resolve into something almost recognizable, when one stared at it long enough. Gradually, one could dimly make out the blockish, darker impression of a flat surface with sharp edges and sharper corners, obscured by the nearly horizontal streaking of gray and brown. This was how Outside looked, winds never less than a hundred kilometers per hour pouring a constant scouring sheet of grit sideways through the atmosphere at surface level. This was how the world looked in a monitoring screen, because nobody went Outside for long.
A few paragraphs further along:
Two cowled rotors, located opposite each other across the fuselage of the hopper and mounted in the rounded “wings” of the thing, were canted forward enough so that the rotorcraft roared through the headwind as quickly as it could move. The armored fuselage shuddered and vibrated with the force of the perpetual sandstorm Outside, taking incredible punishment. A bright yellow and burgundy shield emblem on each side of the craft was being quickly scoured away: today’s grit was more corrosive than usual, and the alkaline abrasive was making short work of the fresh Enforcement Service logo. It was always worse for the paint job when the winds came from inland.
So . . . I’m looking for the kind of environmental disasters that could lead to constant high winds carrying heavy, constant loads of highly corrosive alkaline grit, worse when the winds came from inland. Bonus points for an ironic explanation, like some environmental protection legislation leading to these unintended consequences. Results of rare events like widespread use of a “weapon of mass destruction” or a supervolcano eruption is good, too.
Can anyone out there help me?