Saharan dust arrives in the ArkLaTex Friday

Friday, 26 Jun, 2020

Dust and sandstorms are not uncommon in the desert regions of the world. Although it's hurricane season, meteorologists usually see a lull in tropical cyclones when the Saharan dust clouds appear. The dust then travels 2,500 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean, though some drops to the surface or is flushed from the sky by rain.

To a hurricane, the Saharan dust is only extremely dry air. "Some of these plumes contain more particles, and right now we expecting a very large plume of dust in the Gulf Coast".

Astronaut Doug Hurley shared a photo of the dust plume from the International Space Station.

But it is a fascinating scientific phenomenon. His college friend did her entire doctoral dissertation on Saharan dust - it was riveting.

The dust can impact health because its small size means it can get into people's lungs and potentially the bloodstream. "So persons are being asked to wear masks as much as possible for the next two days to minimise the impact or the influence of the dust on their respiratory system, so the mask is pretty good".

As the cloud began traveling across the Caribbean over the weekend, air quality in much of the region reached risky levels. "During the peak periods it can reach farther to the west, and we've seen it as far west as Florida and Central America", Goggins said Thursday afternoon. "People should monitor their local air quality and possibly limit outdoor exposure". However, this year's event seems to be enhanced with more dust in the atmosphere and strong winds that will keep the dust together, reaching the southeastern United States by Wednesday.

"It can promotes sinking air across the tropical Atlantic so you can't get any thunderstorm development or tropical activity from that".

"This is the most significant event in the past 50 years", said Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico.

Scientists have been monitoring atmospheric dust on the easternmost Caribbean island of Barbados since 1965.

One of the first things you'll notice when the Saharan dust layer arrives is that your typical blue sky will have more of a milky haze to it. Hot temperatures with high heat index values ranging from 100 to possibly 110 are likely to continue into the weekend.