Dust from the Sahara Desert is heading for the US

By the middle of next week, dust from the deserts of North Africa could be above our heads!
This June 7 satellite image shows dust from the Sahara Desert as it begins to move west toward...
This June 7 satellite image shows dust from the Sahara Desert as it begins to move west toward North America.(Source: NOAA)
Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 1:53 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA/Gray News) - It’s that time of year! Dust from the Sahara Desert is becoming highly concentrated in the atmosphere across North Africa and the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

The huge plume of dust is beginning its yearly westward trek across the Atlantic Ocean. While the exact dates of the annual “Saharan dust migration” vary from year to year, mid-June is a very common time for it to occur.

As the dust plume moves across the Atlantic Ocean it will lose some of its concentration. However, there will remain enough dust in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere to make it into the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and eventually the southeastern U.S.

By the time we get to June 23 or so, the dry and dusty air will make it to coastal Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. While it won’t be overly dense, some areas of locally higher dust concentrations will probably exist.

It’s impossible to say where those areas will be, but some coastal (and perhaps inland) locations could see at least some air quality and breathing/health issues arise by the middle of next week.

That will especially be true for those who suffer from respiratory problems. Just keep this in mind as we progress through next week. If the dust concentration is high enough, highly sensitive folks may have to avoid outdoor exposure for a time.

While it may seem rather odd, the other effects of the dust are actually positive!

For example, the dust that gets deposited in the Caribbean helps build up the beaches down there! It also aids in the fertilization of the Amazon Rain forest! In the U.S., the two positive results of Saharan dust are vividly colorful sunrises and sunsets, and suppression of tropical cyclone development in the Atlantic basin.

The dust creates very dry layers in the atmosphere, which highly discourages tropical storm and hurricane development. Tropical systems need warm, moist air to form, strengthen and maintain themselves. With the dry, dusty air in place, the Atlantic basin is typically quiet this time of year!

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