Saharan Dust Storm Lands In U.S.


A couple look at the sea as a vast cloud of Sahara dust is blanketing the city of Havana on June 24, 2020. - A massive cloud of Saharan dust darkened much of Cuba on Wednesday and began to affect air quality in Florida, sparking warnings to people with respiratory illnesses to stay home. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE / AFP) (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
By Brittany Lockley/ BNC Weather Reporter

The greatly anticipated Saharan dust has finally arrived in the Gulf Coast states along the U.S. The dust made a 5,000-mile track across the Atlantic. It Originated from smaller dust storms across central and west Africa.  

Now, before saying “can 2020 get any worse?” this is not a new phenomenon.  The Saharan dust plume is nothing new. It is called the Saharan Air Layer, or SAL and it is studied due to its effects on hurricane development.   

However, this time it is a historic event because the concentration of dust has not been this thick in the last 50 years. Currently, the dust is reducing visibility in the southeastern states. An area of high pressure, or dry conditions, is allowing the dust to settle in throughout the weekend. With these drier conditions, the dust is expected to reach as far north as southern Illinois and Ohio.  

Portions of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida could see milky-looking skies and beautiful enhanced orange/red sunsets this evening and throughout the weekend. These will be the main effects of the Saharan Air layer. The dust will also affect air quality. If you have respiratory issues, you might want to stay inside this weekend.  

By Saturday, the dense plume will move across all of the southern U.S.   

Through the weekend, a thinner amount of dust will advance across much of the eastern U.S. At the same time, a denser concentration will hang around the Southeast, mainly Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.  

The dust will ease up headed into the later part of the weekend and the beginning of the workweek for the southern states, but by the end of next week, it will make a return.  

Looking on the bright side, SAL helps to suppress tropical activity in the Atlantic Ocean.  

To a hurricane, the Saharan dust is nothing more than extremely dry air. FYI: hurricanes hate dry air; they need a hot, humid, and calm environment.  

As long as the Saharan dust is around, there will be fewer storms to watch in the Atlantic.