Are you ready for the Saharan Dust Cloud? It’s officially called the Saharan Air Layer and nicknamed “Godzilla”. And it’s headed to the U.S. beginning June 26, 2020.
No, it’s not happening because this is 2020 and, you know, what ELSE could happen this year. The Saharan Air Layer is a very common occurrence. It’s just that this year’s dust cloud is the largest in 50 years! About 3,500 miles long! It’s expected along the southern coast first before it makes a right turn toward continental U.S.
The Saharan Air Layer is a collection of very dry, dusty air picked up from, you guessed it, the Sahara Desert in Africa. This phenomena usually occurs in late spring, summer and early fall. It hovers about 1 mile above land and can be as much as 2 and half miles thick. We are in the midst of the peak timeframe for the Saharan Air Layer.
The dust cloud can cause reduced visibility, hazy conditions, and since the cloud is, well, filled with dust, it could release dust particles into the air. If you have trouble breathing already due to asthma or other issues, be mindful of the potential ‘dusty’ situation.
While it may seem like a nuisance, there are some benefits to the dust cloud. One is that the warm, dry properties of the dust cloud hampers tropical storm and hurricane formation. Another benefit could be spectacular sunrises and sunsets. “Dust and water particles in the atmosphere are responsible for scattering sunlight, creating the rich colors of sunsets and sunrises. With the added dust in the atmosphere, a greater number of particles can refract sunlight into a range of purples, pinks, oranges and yellows.” Source
And finally, the dust plays a vital ecological role. It fertilizes soil in the Amazon and builds beaches in the Caribbean. Source
So get out this weekend (or look out your windows) and appreciate the power of nature. Maybe explain a few things to your neighbor – because now you’re an expert! Then shake off the dust – or keep it as a souvenir from the Sahara Desert!