Do you notice anything unusual about our sky today? If you look closely, you’ll see a slight orange haze above Southwest Florida over the next few days…. Because Saharan dust arrives in Florida.
The source of this orange haze is a layer of dry dusty air originating from the Sahara Desert that’s traveled over 6 thousand miles from Africa to South Florida!
It’s actually a fairly common occurrence in the middle of summer as these tiny dust particles get swept up into the air by dust storms in the Sahara and then picked up by the easterly winds in the upper atmosphere all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
This Saharan Air Layer, or SAL, actually has some positive side effects as it crosses the Atlantic, helping to suppress the potential for tropical development by keeping the air dry and stable. This is one big reason why the tropics has stayed so quiet lately.
Saharan dust can also have some visually stunning effects in the atmosphere, sometimes producing spectacularly colorful sunsets, so be sure to have your cameras ready in the evening!
When the Saharan dust arrives in Southwest Florida, it tends to reduce the number of storms that develop in the afternoon, however, the dust can also make the atmosphere more unstable aloft, which can give our afternoon storms that do develop more of a punch.
And if you’re worried about the dust causing problems with coughing or sneezing, these dust particles are typically suspended so high up in the air that it generally won’t cause any issues in low to moderate amounts.
Expect the dust to stick around for the next few days as a huge plume of it sweeps across the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico through the weekend. For almost a year, the same Saharan phenomenon occurred in Florida.