Get ready: Saharan dust heading to the Gulf of Mexico by next week

Weather Facts with Nicole Phillips

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets, a slight dip in air quality and suppressed tropical activity are all the things you can expect.

Dust plume entering Atlantic Ocean June 17th 2020

Source: NOAA

A plume of dust from the Sahara Desert will travel across the Atlantic Ocean before heading into the Gulf of Mexico. 

The dust, Composed of tiny particles of sand and minerals, will be transported by the wind into atmosphere known as the Saharan Air Layer. 

The Saharan Air Layer or SAL, forms over the Saharan Desert and is extremely hot and dry. As it moves over the Atlantic Ocean, it will overlay the cooler and humid airmass. The dry, hot air over the cool humid airmass will create an inversion or “lid” on the atmosphere and will limit any ongoing thunderstorm activity across the Atlantic. This combined with other atmospheric conditions, will lead to suppressed hurricane activity.

While this may sound odd, it’s actually common to see dust travel from Africa into the Gulf of Mexico especially during the months of June and July. The movement of dust becomes less as we approach late summer and early fall. 

What can we expect here at home?
The arrival of the dust looks to be the middle of next week but could come as early as the end of the weekend. The dust particles are so small and the concentration will be so low that we will likely not notice much of a difference except for hazy skies and vivid sunrises and sunsets. 

Unfortunately one downside will be the dip in air quality. Those who suffer from upper respiratory issues such as allergies and asthma may become sensitive to the dust and should avoid prolonged outside exposure.

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