Saharan dust moving into the Gulf Coast

Gulf satellite Thursday afternoon 6/25

The mass of extremely dry and dusty air known as the Saharan Air Layer forms over the Sahara Desert and moves across the North Atlantic every three to five days from late spring to early fall, peaking in late June to mid-August, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It's an annual phenomenon that makes for hazy skies and handsome sunsets.

Well, the nightmare that is 2020 rolls on and now instead of dealing with only a risky pandemic and a massive economic crisis and a complete moron in the White House, we also might have to worry about getting taken out by a cloud of dust.

"It will seem more yellow or reddish - when we have clear sky conditions, of course".

A Saharan air layer happens when dust from the Sahara desert occupies a 2 to 2.5-mile thick layer of the atmosphere with the base starting about one mile above the surface.

In recent years, a Saharan air layer has not traveled as far west. But forecasters are watching new batches of dust approaching the Caribbean and moving off Africa's west coast.

Texas, which was one of the first states to ease lockdown at the end of April, reached record COVID-19 hospitalizations for the 13th day in a row Thursday, with almost 4,400 patients. Another large cloud is coming off the African continent, continuing to feed the long chain of dust traveling across the Atlantic.

Saharan dust in Atlantic
More dust from Africa was moving across the Atlantic on Thursday and approaching the Caribbean

When dust invades Southwest Florida it can limit the amount of thunderstorms we see in the area.

"That's because the sunlight is actually going through those (dust) particles and it will produce those vivid sunrises and sunsets".

The Saharan dust typically "helps build beaches in the Caribbean and fertilizes soils in the Amazon" in addition to affecting air quality, according to NASA, which along with NOAA has captured satellite images of the plume.

"Now whether or not they are strong as this one remains to be seen", he said.

On a positive note, Wilkinson said this phenomenon will give the Atlantic Ocean a break from hurricane activity for a brief time.

A recent Harvard study shows that long-term exposure to fine particles of pollution in the air, much like dust, may be linked to higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.


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