I'd like to whip up a fairly classic post-apocalyptic world to be visited by my dimension-hopping airship pilots. In this once earth-like world, a hostile AI purposefully wiped out all plant and animal life and then hunkered down to get on with some serious data processing.
I'd like my human interlopers to treat the world a bit like the Astral Plane in Dungeons & Dragons -- useful for transport, but also barren and potentially dangerous. The goal is for it to approximate a metaphor for space travel.
- The world should be an uncompromising post-apocalyptic wasteland: Blasted desert conditions, ravaged by large dust storms to keep my pilots on edge, with all oceans and water dried up, etc.
- The world should not be habitable: A non-breathable-atmosphere and truly oppressive heat might be ideal. I'd like humans to be able to venture out in protective suits, but not linger. Radiation is a negative, but not a deal breaker -- the goal is dramatic hazards, not cancer.
The world must be navigable: Using approx early 20th airships, with the tech development fudged a little here and there if needed. Keep in mind that atmospheric conditions affect flight.
The disaster should be plausible within the limits of near future, 21st century technology. There can also be only one dramatic disaster event, but a plausible run up (like global warming) can factor in as well. As many years can have passed as is needed.
- The disaster should wipe out human infrastructure. To the point that no technology is salvageable, and preferably to the point that signs of pervious inhabitation are rare. Fortunately, this is something the AI wants.
Bonus Points (and potentially a Bounty for someone going the extra mile):
- A disaster that creates interesting / unusual world conditions, hazards, sights, extra options.
- A disaster that creates a world encouraging dirigible flight, for example, by raising the temperature, weakening the gravitational field, even creating gasses that could be harvested for fuel using early 20th century tech. Long shots perhaps, but better to ask.
Given these requirements, what kind of disaster would work best for this world?