Massive Saharan dust cloud shrouds the Caribbean


BBC News reports on the continuing presence of the huge cloud of Saharan dust that has darkened the skies over parts of the Caribbean. The article mentions Puerto Rico, Cuba, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Martinique and parts of Venezuela, Mexico and Florida. See article and related photos at BBC News.

The dust has been moving from Africa over the Atlantic Ocean.

On Sunday it reached Puerto Rico and has since covered Cuba and parts of Mexico. The Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are suffering their worst haze for at least a decade, and health officials in Cuba are warning it could increase respiratory problems.

The dust cloud is also affecting parts of southern Florida, including the city of Miami. [. . .]

Dust and sandstorms are not uncommon in the desert regions of the world. Winds can whip the dust – up to 2,000 million tonnes every year – high up into our atmosphere and it gets transported many miles away from the source. The dust and sand provide a source of nutrients for ocean ecosystems but can also affect the weather and the health of humans with respiratory problems.

Dust coming off the Sahara into the Atlantic is a common occurrence and is known as the Dry Air Saharan Layer. Later in the hurricane season it can inhibit the growth of tropical storms developing around Cape Verde and the mid-Atlantic.

Over the last week however we’ve had an unusually large area of dust travelling right across the Atlantic affecting Central and North America. This is going to hang around over the weekend. Meanwhile another large area of dust has been seen on satellite images moving out of the Sahara and travelling across the Atlantic.

Poor visibility and air quality is forecast to continue in parts of the Caribbean and Central America over the coming week.

Cuban health officials warned residents that those suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems could see their conditions worsen. Cuban meteorologist José Rubiera said that while Saharan dust clouds were not unusual, the density of the current one was “well above normal levels”.


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