Saharan Dust & low air quality observed across Mississippi

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Saharan Air Layer has carried dust from Africa all the way across the Atlantic Ocean into Mississippi. While it may not be abnormal to see the Saharan dust make its annual journey to the United States, this is the strongest Saharan dust layer in at least 20 years.

As of 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, the air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk for central and south Mississippi. The plume of dust will continue to take an eastward track during the day on Sunday. Before a second wave arrives by the middle of next week.

Tiny individual dust particles combine to make a large plume so big that it can be picked up on satellite images and even be seen from the International Space Station.

Vibrant Sunsets:

The massive dust storm has made for some eye-popping sunsets. The colors that we see at sunrise and sunset are created by light scattering. The scattered sunlight is enhanced by water particles or pollutants, like dust, in the atmosphere. When more dust is present, there are more particles in the atmosphere for light to refract off of, and in return we’ve seen more bright shades of red, orange, yellow and pink.

Low Air Quality:

While we have seen some extra vivid sunrises & sunsets, it might be healthier for some people to admire them from inside. Since dust has moved in, naturally it has lowered our air quality which can irritate your eyes, nose and throat. Children, older adults can be especially susceptible to negative side effects along with anyone with preexisting conditions linked to heart disease, lung disease, allergies or asthma.

Air quality has continued to improve since Friday as the plume of dust pushes north and then tracks eastward on Sunday. Although this wave is moving back out into the Atlantic, a second wave is expected by the middle of next week. The good news is that the second plume of dust is not expected to be as dense as the last.

Make sure that you are continuing to take precautions like staying inside if you have a condition that would be worsened from the extra pollutants in the air.

The massive plume darkened the sky over parts of the Caribbean last weekend. Air quality across most of the Caribbean fell to record “hazardous” levels.

“This is the most significant event in the past 50 years,” said Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico. “Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands.”

Many health specialists were concerned about those battling respiratory symptoms tied to COVID-19. Lázaro, who is working with NASA to develop an alert system for the arrival of Sahara dust, said the concentration was so high in recent days that it could even have adverse effects on healthy people.

Tropical Weather Impacts:

Dust does not kill the development of storms like hurricanes, but it does suppress it.

The big reason for this is this is that it’s bringing in dry, desert air which is the opposite of the moisture needed to fuel a storm. This will not only impact local storms, but as the dust and dry moves over the Atlantic, it will make it hard for tropical storms to grow and develop into hurricanes.

While it could slow down thunderstorms and tropical storm development for now, it does not mean that it will have a lasting impact. The dustiest time of year from this phenomenon can last through June & July.

Hurricane season sees its spike in the fall, after the dust has cleared. So, our already busy 2020 hurricane season is still expected to be very active after this break from the Saharan dust.

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