A brilliant red sky at dusk can be seen in states along the Atlantic but the eye-popping show should be watched with some caveats.
Things to consider when it comes to the dust cloud include the size of the particles, the concentration and the composition of the particles.
When it comes to size, approximately 30% of the dust coming from the Sahara is considered to be “fine.” “Typically, the smaller particles can penetrate deeper into the lungs and the health impacts become more [serious],” says Dr. K. Max Zhang from Cornell University’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
“Particles cause respiratory health effects and irritation and the smaller particles can cause cardiovascular issues and a whole sweep of other health impacts.”
The dust comes from the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa. Each year, hundreds of millions of tons of soil is lifted from the Sahara into the air, according to NASA from late spring to early fall.
Dust from Africa can affect air quality as far away as North and South America if it is mixed down to ground level. But dust can also play an important ecological role, such as, fertilizing soils in the Amazon and building beaches in the Caribbean. The dry, warm, and windy conditions associated with Saharan Air Layer outbreaks from Africa can also suppress the formation and intensification of tropical cyclones.
“While Saharan dust transport across the ocean to the Americas is not uncommon, the size and strength of this particular event is quite unusual,” Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said. “Also, if you look off the coast of Africa you can see yet another large cloud coming off the continent, continuing to feed the long chain of dust traveling across the Atlantic.”
Satellite images from the past few days show the thick dust as a brown mass moving off the west coast of Africa, crawling across the Atlantic and then drifting over the eastern Caribbean on Sunday. The mass is expected to arrive in the Gulf Coast states, including Texas and Louisiana.
SOURCE: Global Information Network