SAHARAN DUST! Here’s who will see it. It moves in today across Florida and other parts of the Southeast later in the week. Vibrant glow at sunrise and sunset!
The skies will be orange and hazy over Florida by mid week and stay that way through Saturday, forecasters predict.
Another Saharan dust storm is on the way. And the animated map below shows who will see it…
This latest storm comes a year after NASA documented the largest dust storm in two decades of observations, nicknamed “Godzilla.” Saharan dust shrouded the Caribbean Sea in June 2020 and even dimmed skies over several southeastern states.
Some 60 million tons of the Sahara’s nutrient-laden mineral dust lofts into the atmosphere annually, according to NASA, creating a massive layer of hot, dusty air that whisks across the Atlantic Ocean with the winds to deliver those nutrients to the ocean and plants in the Caribbean and South America.
The airborne particles block or reflect sunlight. In heavy doses near ground, the dust fouls air quality.
How does Sahara sand crosses the Atlantic Ocean?
University of Kansas researchers used data from a pair of NASA satellites and ground stations to outline how wind patterns shepherd dust across vast distances.
“The African easterly jet [stream] exports the dust from Africa towards the Atlantic region” said Bing Pu, lead author of the NASA study. “Then the North Atlantic subtropical high, which is a high-pressure system sitting over the subtropical North Atlantic, can further transport it towards the Caribbean region. The Caribbean low-level jet, along with the subtropical high, can further transport the dust from the Caribbean region towards the States.”
Does climate change feed these US Saharan dust storms? Probably NOT!
New NASA research is split on whether the Sunshine State will see more or less of these yearly storms that fuel red tides and many a sneeze.
Pu and colleagues hypothesize climate change will make dust storms more frequent and intense. Higher temperatures will bring more dry air and less vegetation to the Sahara, providing more loose, dusty material to be picked up by winds, they say. Stronger storms and winds in a warmer world also will provide more energy to carry the dust.
Tianle Yuan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center predicts the opposite…
When the northern Atlantic warms relative to the south Atlantic, trade winds that blow the dust east to west will weaken, transporting less dust from the Sahara. Weaker winds also will enable steadier bands of rain to traverse the tropics and drift north over more of the desert, further dampening dust.
Yuan’s team says Africa’s yearly dust plumes might actually shrink over the next 100 years. They argue changes in ocean temperatures will lower prevailing winds and therefore the transport from Africa to the Americas. They also say the wind changes will increase moisture flowing into Africa, leading to more rain and vegetation, reducing dust in the Saharan and Sub-Saharan regions. Global warming could lower Saharan dust by 30% over the next 20 to 50 years, they say, and keep declining after that.
The Sahara Desert is 3.6 million square miles of arid land stretched across the northern half of Africa, slightly smaller than the continental United States. [USA Today]
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