Saharan dust plume set to reach the U.S. mainland late this week

JACKSON, Tenn. — The skies could start to look a bit different across the Southeast thanks to an expansive plume of Saharan Dust that’s expected to drift in by the end of the week. Each summer, it is common for dust particles from the Sahara Desert to journey almost 5,000-miles across the Atlantic Ocean into the Caribbean Sea and southern United states. 

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Known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), the dust can reach altitudes of 20,000 feet, following the trade winds in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a zone of east-to-west moving winds near the equator. This is a major hot spot for tropical systems to form, but the dust plumes are known for suppressing activity.

Normally the plumes fizzle out before reaching the Caribbean, but this particular event has received lots of attention recently due to the vast amount of dust layer moving in this time around, the thickest in decades.

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The dust has already caused hazy conditions across the Caribbean, but it can also cause colorful sunrises and sunsets. Due to the dust though health issues will be a concern, especially for those suffering from respiratory issues, such as asthma, due to the poor air quality.

The dust plume should start to reach the Gulf Coast by mid-week, and possibly reach Tennessee by the weekend.

Categories: Weather Blog