Saharan Dust Impacting Gulf Coast This Week
MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The Saharan dust has arrived along the Gulf Coast with another plume moving across the Atlantic that is expected to arrive this upcoming Friday.
You might notice the sky looking a little more hazy these next few days and this is all thanks to dust aerosols in the upper atmosphere that originated from the Sahara desert. It will also lead to some beautiful sunrises and sunsets as the dust particles in our air will scatter the sun’s light in a way that creates more intense colors.
The Saharan dust is a yearly occurrence. Typically its activity ramps up in mid-June and peaks from late June to mid-August. Last year’s dust event was unusual because it was about 60-70% dustier than the average Saharan dust outbreak according to NOAA. That made it the dustiest event since records began 15-20 years ago. At one point in 2020, visibility in Puerto Rico was down to 3 miles because of how concentrated the dust was in certain areas.
According to NOAA, this phenomenon occurs when “ripples in the low-to-middle atmosphere, called tropical waves, track along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert and loft vast amounts of dust into the atmosphere.” The Jet stream winds can transport the 180 million tons of dust 5,000 miles from Africa to the United States
The dust will actually help bring beneficial nutrients to our soil. The Saharan dust is packed full of minerals like iron and phosphorus. As the dust moves across the ocean, it helps to fertilize ocean plant life along the way. It then reaches land and does the same thing for plant life, especially for the Amazon Rainforest.
The dust will help to keep the atmosphere less favorable for any storms to develop off the coast of Africa and is a large reason why we aren’t expecting any tropical development in the next five days. The Saharan dust layer is very dry which is the opposite of what a tropical cyclone needs to form. In fact, the Saharan Air Layer has about 50% less moisture than the typical tropical atmosphere.
One downside is that this will affect our air quality. For those sensitive to dust allergies or asthma, it will bring tough breathing conditions as particles can fall to near the surface. Overall we will be at a Moderate Level for our air quality over the next three days meaning that a small number of unusually sensitive people may have a few health concerns.
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