Making the news this week is an event of Saharan Dust moving through the Atlantic Ocean. Dust events happen a few times a year during hurricane season and are nothing new, but what is different about this one is the amount of dust moving westward.
Dust from the Saharan Desert can get caught in the trade winds from Africa and move westward through the basin. If conditions are right, that dust plume can make it all the way to the United States. An event like that is expected to happen this week with dust reaching parts of the Gulf Coast this weekend.
Every dust event brings the same impacts. The most important one is that the dust limits tropical development in the Atlantic as the air is also very dry, prohibiting clouds from forming and keeping large thunderstorm complexes that could become tropical systems in check. The dust also allows for beautiful sunsets as the dust in the upper parts of the atmosphere refracts light making for bright reds and pinks at sunset.
There is a health hazard in a big event like this that air quality may drop. While air quality is expected to deteriorate a bit along the Gulf Coast, it should be not be enough to cause any respiratory problems, especially since masks are being worn by many people outside due to the coronavirus, which will keep to keep the dust from being inhaled.