Annual dust cloud from the Sahara Desert is en route to Mexico
A huge cloud of dust from the Sahara Desert in North Africa is on its way to Mexico and is expected to reach the Yucatán Peninsula next week.
Large amounts of yellow-colored Saharan dust arrive in Mexico each year, carried by the easterly trade winds across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. Satellite images show that the enormous dust cloud, considerably larger than those seen in recent years, is currently crossing the ocean.
Over 100 million tonnes of desert dust is picked up by storms in Africa and blown across the Atlantic each June.
Researchers have found that dust – made up of particles of iron, silicon, mercury, and phosphorus, among other chemical elements – impacts atmospheric pressure over the Atlantic Ocean and can help suppress hurricane intensity.
The dust also acts as a natural fertilizer and has been shown to play a key role in restoring minerals to depleted rainforest soils in the Amazon Basin of South America.
However, research also shows that it can be harmful to coral reefs if it descends into the ocean before reaching dry land. A study found that dust can trigger toxic algal blooms, also known as red tides, which have the ability to kill large numbers of fish, crustaceans, marine mammals and birds.
When it reaches the Yucatán Peninsula, the dust is likely to create spectacular and colorful sunrises and sunsets. Meteorologists say its arrival could be accompanied by torrential rains.
Dust is not considered particularly harmful to human health, but can cause eye and throat irritation, trigger allergies and worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Residents of the Yucatán Peninsula are advised to limit outdoor activities while they are present in the air of the area.
Source: Xataka (sp), Noticieros Televisa (sp)