What they call the most significant cloud of dust in the last 50 years has now illuminated the U.S. Gulf Coast with a thick, dusty fog. The layer of dust, which formed in the Sahara Desert and hovered across the Atlantic, is predicted to continue over the weekend to the north and east, affecting areas from Texas and Florida all the way north to the Canadian border.
For most people, dust will be just a nuisance, but for many who have breathing, extra particles in the atmosphere can cause complications. The weather couldn’t be much worse given that recent research from Harvard showed that prolonged exposure to tiny particles of air pollution, such as dust, may be associated with higher hospitalization and death rates due to COVID-19.
At the moment, the dust is thick from Texas to Florida.
The event is easy to follow on satellite footage where viewers can animate the journey of the pasture and see the historical concentration of dust as a giant brown mass exceeding 5,000 kilometers.
Most of the dust layer is far above the surface – mostly between a few thousand feet above the surface to about 15,000 to 20,000 feet. However, vertical mixing of the atmosphere and precipitation can bring that dust to the ground and it can become harmful to people with respiratory problems.
The main impact of Saharan dust will be cloudy skies during the day, locally reduced visibility and deteriorating air quality.
The dust is expected to disintegrate into two parts due to split currents in the middle levels of the atmosphere, which will guide them in two different directions.
A portion of the dust clouds will retreat to northern Texas this weekend across the Flat States and Midwest, and even to the Canadian border. The dust will disperse drastically and dilute by the time it reaches the middle of the nation, but cities like Kansas City, Minneapolis and Chicago will see fog instead of the normal sky. The dust in the atmosphere will also create some vivid sunrises and sunsets.
The second group of dust will be denser and will linger in the south, affecting Texas and areas in the east and northeast, in the Tennessee Valley, Carolina, and Florida. Here the dust will be thick enough to pose a risk of breathing. It is recommended that people in these areas wear a mask when they are outside.